Group: Association for Garden Communicators
Event: GWA Annual Conference & Expo
Date: August 4-7, 2017
In the summer of 2017, seven years of work on the part of the region’s horticulture sector resulted in the arrival of 350 garden writers for the Association for Garden Communicators annual conference.
This conference was more than three years in the making and required the volunteer efforts of scores of volunteers and garden-related organizations. The conference participants left behind $1.3 million in expenditures at the region’s hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and attractions in addition to countless articles, blog posts, videos, social media posts and positive word of mouth, singing the region’s praises as a forward-thinking region using horticulture to rebuild its neighborhoods and remake its image.
In a very real sense, this was the culmination and validation of the entire rationale behind the garden tourism initiative. The Buffalo Niagara Garden Tourism Initiative is now managed under the auspices of Gardens Buffalo Niagara. A new website and video highlight the menu of horticultural options available to visitors to Western New York.
Buffalo Niagara’s Garden Tourism Initiative is among the largest horticultural events in the nation. While other regions have home and garden tours, they typically take place over the course of a single day or weekend. Buffalo Niagara offers garden-minded travelers the opportunity to experience 14 garden tours, 75 open gardens and multiple special events over the course of an entire month.
Funded by a consortium of Western New York based foundations, Visit Buffalo Niagara, Garden Buffalo Niagara, Plant WNY and the Buffalo Green Fund, the garden tourism initiative has been built primarily on the contributions of individual gardeners and homeowners who have invested countless hours and materials to the cause of beautifying Buffalo Niagara.
Our breadth of collaborators is another notable aspect of the garden tourism initiative: Visit Buffalo Niagara, Gardens Buffalo Niagara, Buffalo Botanical Gardens, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Plant WNY (formerly the WNY Nursery & Landscape Association), Buffalo in Bloom, Master Gardeners of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Buffalo Green Fund, Federated Garden Clubs and the WNY Hosta Society have been the primary partners since the advent of the initiative in 2010.
Over the course of seven years, the partner organizations have leveraged their individual strengths to build a collaborative series of events taken to market by Visit Buffalo Niagara.
The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
The garden tourism initiative has contributed to the rebranding and revitalization of the Buffalo Niagara region. The region’s gardens and garden events have been featured in countless national and regional publications, among them, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, since 2010, exposing millions of potential visitors to our message of a revitalized region that is blooming and vibrant once again.
Thanks in part to the horticultural sector, Buffalo Niagara has begun to change the narrative about Western New York from rust belt to green belt, repositioning Buffalo Niagara as a forward-thinking region that is on the leading edge of urban regeneration strategies, neighborhood beautification, urban agriculture and the green economy.
Other notable achievements include the Front Yard Garden Competition, in which a dozen local landscapers donated time, labor and materials in the service of remaking the front yards on a street immediately adjacent to one of Buffalo’s six Olmsted parks.
This beautification effort highlighted the power of plants to bring a community together and the private sector’s willingness to contribute to the beautification of the city.
After three years of remaking private gardens, the Front Yard Garden Competition evolved into the Leaf a Legacy Campaign in which professional landscapers pitched in to remake a public space in the city of Buffalo. The revitalization of McKinley Circle in South Buffalo was valued at more than $200,000 in labor and materials.
In addition, a Peace and Healing Garden was created under the auspices of the Leaf a Legacy campaign at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens by Plant WNY. All materials were donated by Plant WNY.
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