There’s lots to love about a Western New York summer, and to some people, gardening is at the head of the list.
Gardening grew from pastime to passion in 1995 when a group of west side neighbors launched the first Garden Walk in Buffalo. Since then, almost every town and community rolls out the green carpet for friends of flora and fauna. Garden walks are community builders that sprout with civic and personal pride. Each community’s collective personality shines in its garden walk, too. Gardeners also show off their other interests in their gardens, too, incorporating crafting or other hobbies.
Buffalo’s event, the mother of all Garden Walks, is July 30 and 31 in Buffalo. Thousands of people will flock to neighborwoods on the west side, the Elmwood Village, and downtown, hailing from near suburbans and homes all around the world. Truly, Buffalo’s Garden Walk is an international tourist event with an estimated $4.5 million in economic impact It’s now the largest urban garden walk event in the United States, with more than 400 individual participants.
Long before garden walks were a ‘thing,’ gardening itself was widely acknowledged for its mental health benefits. Puttering in a garden is a natural stress reliever, according to Psychology Today, that melds physical activity, mindfulness, acceptance, and patience into one practice. Taking an interest in gardening is also a way to cope with loneliness: there are community gardens lovingly tended by volunteers who work together to beautify neighborhood with public greenspaces and pocket parks or urban farms that grow produce for neighbors. Grassroots Gardens WNY is an accredited Land Trust organization that convenes volunteers to tend more than 100 gardens in Buffalo’s urban core and beyond. The group also provides education and training to those of us who weren’t born with a green thumb. There’s a social justice and environmental connection to community gardening, too.
Gardening – even on a small scale – is second cousin to forest bathing: immersing yourself in the peaceful quiet of a garden is calming and relaxing. Two Spectrum Health guest bloggers have shared with experiences with this Japanese-inspired practice. Community garden walks are generally filled with hearty conversation between gardeners and enthusiasts and these social exchanges have their own value, too. You’re still outside, sharing stories, learning, engaging, and hopefully just having some fun….and that’s the very best part of a Western New York summer day.