The Good Life
many of them visiting Buffalo for the
first time. Another event that attracts
large numbers of plant enthusiasts to
Western New York is Garden Walk Buffalo. While it’s not exactly a club, Gardens Buffalo Niagara (organizing entity
for Garden Walk Buffalo, Open Gardens, and many garden walks) cannot
be ignored as an incredible stimulant
fostering gardening knowledge, inspiration, and friendships.
Garden-related travel creates friendships and stimulates learning, and gardening group leaders have also learned
that it encourages membership. The
Alden Garden Club, for example, has
planned a motor coach tour (through
AAA/Great Garden Travel) to see some
of the famous Buffalo gardens this summer. The club is large, young, and
growing quickly. Other garden-themed
clubs often come to WNY from Canada,
Pennsylvania, and elsewhere to see our
public and private gardens and parks.
Picnics, banquets, field trips, plant
swaps, and plant sales have all become
staples of many garden clubs and plant
societies. Herb societies have food prep-
aration demos and tastings. Shadrack
describes the WNY Hosta Society’s new-
est and best routine, a regular Saturday
morning breakfast: “I cannot believe
just how good our hosta breakfasts have
become. A group of members gathers
once a month in a local restaurant for
breakfast and lively gossip—from twen-
ty to thirty-four people generally. What
makes the breakfasts so entertaining, in
my opinion, is that everyone brings a
‘drag and brag’ to stimulate conversa-
tion. In November, we were delighted
by a small flowering shrub that none of
us knew anything about, and we were
(The WNY District is VIII, with 1, 100
members; gardenclubsofwny.) Like its
counterparts across the United States
and Canada, the Master Gardener pro-
gram of Cornell Cooperative Extension
offers intensive science-based training
in most counties, straight from Cor-
nell research, to create educated vol-
Plant societies also connect new
gardeners with authors and experts
who are members. The BADS includes
hybridizers and growers such as Pam
Hoffmann and Carol and Anthony
Haj (Lasting Dreams Daylilies), for
instance, and WNY Hosta Society members can consult hybridizer and expert
Ran Lydell (Eagle Bay Hostas). Gardeners can even trade cuttings or win rare
plants. A few special plant society or
garden club members often host out-of-state and international friends in their
homes, making it possible for them to
come to local meetings. Watch for plant
organization notices of visiting authors,
scientists, and educators—and go. It’s
the highest quality plant education you
can experience for the lowest possible
price (often free).
New tricks for old clubs
In twenty-five years of attending,
observing, and mingling with plant society and garden club people, I’ve seen
organizations find new ways to attract
and keep members, in addition to offering higher quality education.
Locally hosted conferences and
Reasons to attend a plant society meeting, and
1. Plant people are friendly and approachable. No exceptions (if there is a grump in the crowd, the
other members rush to make you feel comfortable).
2. The price is right. Regular meetings and lectures are usually free. (Some clubs have
membership fees, but it’s a minor matter.)
3. They aren’t selling you anything. No pressure.
4. You will learn something, even if you’re a true plant geek. There’s always more to learn.
5. You will make friends over time, some of them deep and true. In the short term, at least, you
will have new associates, people who know your name, and folks to greet when you see them.
6. It’s something of your own, a true interest, so, no matter how stressful your job or family
situation, there is always the rose/orchid/bonsai meeting.
7. You’ll have opportunities for greater adventures and travel: a Master Gardener or Perennial
Plant Association conference, Hosta College, or Northeast Orchid Symposium.
8. If you volunteer time on a committee or board, you will learn leadership and organizational
skills, all useful in business and personal life.
9. You are likely to become an expert in some niche within the body of information; expertise is
empowering. And then you may become a teacher, instructor, or speaker on your subject.
10. You will find unexpected fun.
shows boost interest in plant specialties.
The Niagara Frontier Orchid Society
just held the prestigious Mid-America
Orchid Congress in Buffalo, turning a
bright light on Western New York growers, hobbyists, and the Buffalo and Erie
County Botanical Gardens. The NFOS
also holds orchid shows every October
and February at the Botanical Gardens,
attracting thousands of people. Bonsai, daylily, iris, herb, and hosta organizations and others have hosted and
produced national, state, or regional
shows. National Garden Clubs Inc. held
its national convention in Buffalo in
2012, registering more than 990 guests
from all over North and South America,
From left: A group of garden bloggers visited Buffalo in 2010; Mike and Kathy Shadrack met
during a hosta society tour.