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Gardening and More: Think outside the box to spice up your gardens, this summer season

POPEYE’S PRIDE — Malabar spinach, pictured above, is a tasty vine plant that adds color to your garden. Photo submitted by Connie Oswald Stofko.
BUFFALO — I’m always getting new ideas from the gardeners I talk to. Here are just a few of the more interesting tips I’ve picked up, recently.

Try Malabar spinach
I had never even heard of Malabar spinach, before I visited the Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk, which takes place in the neighborhood around the University at Buffalo South Campus. Shawn King grows this cool plant, in her garden.

Malabar spinach is a vining plant that has a magenta stem with green leaves. King gave me a taste, and it’s delicious. It tastes like ordinary spinach, but the leaves are thicker, which I think adds to its appeal. Since it’s a vine, you can let Malabar spinach grow up a trellis, to save space in your garden.

Be daring: paint dried plants
Karen Deutschlander of Lancaster has purple alliums in her garden. Those are the flowers that look like a round ball on a stick. When I say the alliums in her garden are purple, I mean that, right now, they’re purple.

That’s unusual, because alliums are spring flowers. By summer, the flower has faded to brown. Many people leave them in their garden anyway, because they’re such an interesting shape. Others cut them, dry them and paint them, to use in arrangements.

Deutschlander does something different. She spray paints them, while they’re still in the garden! I didn’t notice that she had painted flowers in her garden, until she pointed it out to me.

That’s not the only plant she has spray painted. One time, she had a dead arborvitae, and the Lancaster Garden Walk was coming up, fast. She said she spray painted the entire bush and no one who visited her garden noticed.

Mow over mint
Mint can really spread, if you don’t keep it contained, and you may find yourself pulling out all those extra plants. Don’t just throw them on the compost pile. Instead, use them to add a little aromatherapy to your day, with this simple tip from King of Buffalo.

Throw those extra plants on your lawn, then run over them with the lawn mower. It smells so good!

Use a window box to contain herbs
Mint isn’t the only herb that can get out of control. Chives, oregano and other herbs can establish themselves so well that you have enough seasoning to open a restaurant.

Debbie Acquisto of Grand Island grows her herbs in window boxes on her shed. It not only keeps the herbs contained, but adds interest to what might otherwise be a boring shed.

Sally Cunningham honored by state nursery group
Sally Cunningham, an East Aurora resident who grew up in Hamburg and Eden, has received the New York State Certified National Landscape Professional of the Year award for 2013, from the New York State Nursery & Landscape Association, for achievements that benefit the professional nursery and landscape industry.

She has educated the public about science-based gardening and landscaping practices for more than 20 years. She is a lecturer, columnist for the Buffalo News, featured writer for Buffalo Spree magazine and gardening expert for WIVB-TV Channel 4. She said that she tries to use her influence in the media to raise the bar, for higher landscape standards and greater understanding and respect for landscapers, growers, arborists and nursery professionals.

Cunningham is also co-founder and director of the four-year-old National Garden Festival, here in Western New York, which boosts tourism, with six weeks of garden-themed events that include garden walks, bus tours, bike tours, educational events and open gardens. The National Garden Festival has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to Buffalo area gardens, offering nearly 1,000 private gardens to view.

As part of the National Garden Festival, the Western New York Nurserymen’s Association Foundation produced three, block-long front yard makeovers, and, in 2013, are collaborating to renovate an important public garden, in a program called Leaf a Legacy.

Cunningham also offers garden consultation and education programs at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, located at 4484 Clark St. in Hamburg.

“Support your own garden centers, growers and nursery professionals,” Cunningham said. “We’re there for you!”

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


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