Buffalo’s charming Cottage Garden District

Exuberantly planted front-yard gardens, colorful window boxes, lush container plantings, shady nooks, garden art, and Crayola-hued houses make the Cottage District in Buffalo, New York, a delight to explore. It’s one of the most popular neighborhoods to tour during Garden Walk, which begins in two weeks. Lucky for us, on our first full day at Garden Bloggers Buffa10, we were treated to an early sneak peek without the long lines.

The Cottage District gardens may be tiny, but they’re big on style and personality. The first 9 images in this post were shot in a lovely garden soon to be visited, I heard, by Martha Stewart. I didn’t get the whole story, but the garden did look magazine worthy.

I don’t grow anything thirsty in my containers at home because of our brutally hot summer climate. But I sure appreciated these lush, colorful container plantings, which fill bare spaces throughout the garden.

Here’s a combination we Austinites could pull off in the ground or in a container: Salvia guaranitica and sweet potato vine. Chartreuse paired with electric blue—fabulous!

Verbena bonariensis is smashing with a variegated something or other. (I didn’t know many of the plants in Buffalo, far out of my gardening comfort zone.)

The very back of the garden transitions from sun into shade, and hostas and ferns replace bee balm (Monarda) and other flowery plants. A heron sculpture seems at home amid the greenery.

The heron is reflected in a mirror hung on the ivy-cloaked back wall.

Retracing my steps back into sun, and flower power

Another container garden along the driveway turns even bare concrete into a beautiful garden room.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, I spotted this blue cottage…

…and an orange house jazzed up even more with red geraniums (Pelargonium).

Another garden took advantage of a borrowed view that was simply amazing in its castle-like proportions. The homeowner, sitting on his back steps, told us that the tower is a relic of an old livery stable (if I recall correctly), part of which has collapsed, leaving the tower and the ivy-draped wall with gothic window arches that his property backs up against.

In the ruin’s shadow, he created a lovely shade garden with Asian influences…

…and a little classical statuary thrown in to boot. I really enjoyed this garden, not least because the homeowner took the time to tell us about it.

On down the street, a blue door and another front-yard garden

Across the street, a neighbor’s hell strip was heavenly with Russian sage and pink phlox.

Window boxes throughout the neighborhood were packed with colorful annuals…

…and richly hued foliage combinations.

All of which is just a taste of the 350+ gardens you can see during Garden Walk, July 24 and 25.

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

28 Responses

  1. Lori says:



    I’m stealing so many ideas for color combinations from this post. Wow. I really wish I could have gone, but let me tell you, I’m gonna be stalking the blogs of everyone who went because I can’t get enough of these amazing gardens!

  2. Wow… absolutely amazing photos, Pam. I knew I didn’t need to bother getting my camera out in the rain with so many talented photographers in the group!

  3. Darla says:

    I fall in love all over again each time I read a post about Buffalo. What incredible ideas and combinations here. Love the colors of the homes as well. I can see Martha Stewart magazine publishing one of these gardens…

  4. Amy says:

    I bet you are having a wonderful time and I love all your photos! The gardens are so colorful with beautiful combinations. Wow…what they have done with containers!

  5. So lovely! That’s one of the most inviting patio seating areas that I’ve ever seen! It is magazine-worthy.

    The Russian sage is interesting — there’s no way that I could grow phlox in the same place as Russian sage here in my garden. The phlox would be toast out with the sage. And, the sage would rot planted in the moist conditions with my phlox. Different zones for different folks.

    I have that exact same “variegated something or the other” in my garden and it has never bloomed because the deer keep the tops pinched off and leave the rest of the foliage alone. I’m thinking it could likely be a variegated obedient plant because I can’t think of anything else. Mine have not spread at all (dry soil), but I just wish the deer would let it bloom

  6. All the Texans must have gotten drunk on those colors. For all the lovely bright flower, the color I most want to drink in is green.

    I like best your shot of the statue next to the ? (I was going to say red hot pokers but the foliage looks like acanthus). She looks worried. I love the composition of that shot.

    Thanks. That yellow-spired plant next to the statue is ligularia. It was in bloom all over Buffalo. We saw a number of acanthus in bloom as well. —Pam

  7. Susan (Gardensage) says:

    Great photos. Buffalo? Who knew. Looks like a delightful area.

  8. Jenny says:

    I’m drooling with envy at all the gorgeous flowers and the wonderful design ideas…..and window boxes to die for. If only!

  9. My whole concept of Buffalo, New York has changed. Beautiful gardens! I’m definitely going to try coleus again after viewing these gardens. I’m wondering if there are some sun-loving coleus that can take the Texas shade all summer long.

  10. I think I missed the garden with the mirrors (that or I was afraid I’d get drenched if I got closer). I was also blown away by the color in the gardens. Makes me want to start painting. Thanks for the info about the tower. I visited that garden in the downpour & the homeowner was holed up inside.

    The garden with the mirror was the same one with the seating area pictured at the top of this post. The shady area was in the very back of the property. —Pam

  11. MSS – that’s Ligularia (I believe ‘The Rocket’) next to the classical statue.

  12. Beautiful photos Pam. You make us look even better.

  13. Frances says:

    Your own shots are certainly magazine worthy, Pam! Sometimes the rain actually makes the colors pop a little better than in bright sunlight, especially for those of us point and shooting on auto. The Ligularia was seen in several places, wish a spot could be found for it here, but dry and hot might do it in. The use of color was fearless. The orange house with the red window boxes was pure genius. Who would think to put those together and yet the result is stupendous. :-)

  14. Lisa Blair says:

    Love the verbena bonariensis. I really want some for my garden, just need to find a place for it.

    Oh- and if only my coleus could look so good!!

  15. I love that little wicker chair sitting area. I think it was my favorite spot on the trip. Loved finally meeting you, Pam–and thanks for setting the table two nights for a stimulating discussion on the ins-and-outs of blogging!

  16. Your Buffa10 posts somehow make me feel nostalgia for a place I’ve never even seen in person, Pam, with these Buffalo gardens compressing all the best Northern plants into a very small place. My first thought on seeing your mystery variegated plant was ‘Physostegia’ and then saw Cameron’s comment -guess that makes two votes.

    And imagine having a picturesque tower as borrowed scenery instead of seeing the neighbors’ shiny metal pool slide!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  17. Layanee says:

    As always, the pictures are lovely and it is a great re-cap. Loved spending time wandering these gardens with you.

  18. Jean says:

    Looking at your photos makes me realize that I missed taking photos of some of those amazing things. I guess I was too distracted, ha! I heard the same story about the livery but can’t imagine what that place must have looked like in its day. It must have been HUGE!

  19. Wow!….just, WOW!!

  20. You know, that’s a good point, Pam, about “garden comfort zones.” I recognize many of your non-perennial-in-my-zone plants because we grow them up here as annuals and tropicals… but you wouldn’t have the same frame of reference. I never thought about that!

    Great photos. I especially love the orange house, and the red monarda growing up and blooming in front of that luscious yellow foliage.

  21. eliz says:

    These are some amazing images. Some of the best I have seen of BUffalo gardens. We should hire you!!!!

  22. Gail says:

    Fantastic post Pam! beautiful images~I think the variegated plant is a phlox~Not happy in the south! gail

  23. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Your images are indeed stellar and capture the beauty of these gardens splendidly. I could have wandered the Cottage District for days enjoying all these fabulous gardens.

  24. Mamaholt says:

    WOW, those window boxes have my mind racing! That blue cottage…TA DIE FAH.

  25. Cheryl says:

    Really beautiful arrangements, how fun! Thanks for the tour Pam!

  26. Pam/Digging says:

    Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! I wish I could answer every single one. Thanks for following along with my Buffa10 adventures. —Pam

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