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Gardening & More: Gardening tips gleaned from local garden walks

COOL COLOR – The leaves of coleus can add a pop of color to a shady spot. Tip: Don’t let the plant grow a flower. Pinch off the flower and the plant will be bushier.
BUFFALO — Chatting with gardeners is a great way to get tips you can use, in your own garden. When you go on garden walks, don’t be shy; strike up a conversation with the homeowner. Here are three tips I picked up, on recent garden walks.

Don’t let your coleus plant grow flowers
Luis Martinez and Jeff Wilson of West Delavan Avenue, Buffalo, are among the gardeners who loved using impatiens flowers in shady areas—that is, until the plants were killed last year, by downy mildew.

There is no treatment for that plant disease and it can return for years, so they had to find something different, for those shady areas.

This year, for a pop of color they chose coleus, using plants with colored leaves.

Here’s Wilson’s tip: Don’t let your coleus flower. Pinch off the flower and the plant will get fuller.

Bonus tip: Don’t throw away the part you pinched off. Place it in water or even directly in the soil and it should root.

Get free plants from demolition sites
When a house or other building is being razed, the land is often bulldozed and scraped, destroying wonderful flowers, shrubs, vines and bulbs in the process.

Elise Fila of Williamsville said she doesn’t like to see those plants go to waste, so she rescues them.

“We get in there with our shovels and dig things out before they’re totally history,” Fila said.

She finds out about demolition sites from a friend who does construction, or she simply stumbles across the sites.

Fila always tries to get permission from the construction workers or the owner of the land. Sometimes she is asked to sign a waiver, saying she won’t sue if she gets hurt, while she’s on the property.

“They’re afraid of lawsuits,” Fila said. “That’s all they’re really worried about. They don’t care if you take the plants. They don’t want them. They’re going to destroy them, anyway.”

Take trowels and shovels for digging, she advised, as well as buckets and recycling bins, to hold the plants.

She’s on the beautification committee in Williamsville, so she uses the plants she rescues in the village parks, as well as her own garden.

Choose a color scheme
You can choose a color scheme for your entire garden or just one section.

Barb Rudnicki of Reserve Road in West Seneca planted a patriotic grouping of clematis on her fence. One plant was red, one was white and one was blue. The clematis was blooming just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Note: The blue clematis was purplish and the red clematis was on the pink side, but when you saw them together it was obvious what she was going for.

Consider planting flowers in the colors of your favorite school colors or sports team.

Next time you meet a gardener, start a conversation. You don’t know what great information you’ll discover, that you can apply to make your own garden the most unique display in the neighborhood.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email


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