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Could Indianapolis be a city of garden walks?

Jim Charlier’s gardens were on Garden Walk Buffalo. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A recent trip to Buffalo, New York, makes me wonder if Indianapolis could embrace the idea of whole neighborhoods opening their gardens for tours.

For the last 24 years, gardeners like you and me have been putting their gardens on tour  in Buffalo, New York, the last weekend in July

This year, about 60,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Great Britain and other countries donned their walking shoes to tour 400 gardens. Garden Walk Buffalo is billed as the America’s largest garden tour. And it’s free.

For the past two years, Garden Walk Buffalo has teamed with the Buffalo Architecture Foundation and its Building Stories Program, so visitors could learn about the city’s historic architecture, including construction, landscape and planning. Recently, USA Today touted the city’s exceptional examples of residential, commercial and public buildings and landscapes in “Buffalo builds on architecture tourism,” July 28, 2017.

William R. Heath Frank Lloyd Wright home in Buffalo, New York, was in a neighborhood, but not on Garden Walk Buffalo. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Shuttles transport tourists from neighborhood to neighborhood, where they see postage-stamp size gardens. These are not what we call “checkbook gardens,” but rather very personal landscapes planted and accessorized with what the gardeners are enjoy, such as mini hostas or eclectic art.

Gardens reflect the distinct personalities of the gardens on Garden Walk Buffalo. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This is a community-wide effort, promoted by Visit Buffalo Niagara. This year, GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators had their annual conference and expo in Buffalo, where some events were sponsored by Visit Buffalo Niagara.

When I first heard about Garden Walk Buffalo several years ago, I wondered if Indianapolis could ever do anything like this. After visiting Buffalo earlier this month, I’m more curious than ever.

Indianapolis could start small. For instance, several neighborhoods, such as Irvington, Broad Ripple, Garfield Park, Meridian Kessler, Chatham Arch, already have periodic garden walks or home and garden events. What if they all had their events the same weekend and shuttles or buses carried people from place to place.

Gardeners densely plant their postage stamp-size gardens for Garden Walk Buffalo. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

In Buffalo, garden communicators were let off the buses, walked a couple of blocks, visiting six to eight gardens along the way, in about 30 to 40 minutes, then back on the buses to a different neighborhood. The tours were staggered, so all 350 of us weren’t in the same garden at the same time.

I know a lot of the Indianapolis neighborhoods have these events to raise funds for programs, economic development and other interests. I can’t help but wonder how economic development would be boosted by the visits of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people one weekend a year.

It’s something to think about, how we could enrich our community by celebrating gardening. Of course, there would have to be an overall organizing body. Indianapolis has many buildings of interest that could be part of an architecture program, similar to Buffalo. I’m intersted in know what you think. Next week, we’ll look at an Indiana example of how a community pulled together to enhance it economy and examine the dollar benefits of its effort and Garden Walk Buffalo.

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