Outdoor spaces: ‘rambunctious’ gardens in West Amherst | Lifestyle: Food, Home, Health

Longtime gardener Carol Ann Harlos gets a lot of feedback about her sprawling garden from neighbors, visitors and passersby. People tell her it’s beautiful. Some say it must be a lot of work.

But one man’s reaction to her front yard in particular stands out: ‘He said, ‘You make the world a better place.’ It’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about my yard,” Harlos said.

As for the comments “must be a lot of work”, she answers in this way.

“I garden because I like to play. Gardening just isn’t a job for me,” says Harlos, 80, who enjoys observing birds, bees, and other insects in the front, side, and backyards of her West Amherst home.

The large front yard, which Harlos and her husband James created 10 years ago, takes up about two-thirds of the front yard. Being in full view, the yard is a great way to interact with people, she said.

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It is planted with lobelias; sedum; sweet William and shiso (an annual herb, also called perilla, used as a garnish and ingredient in Asian cuisine). Also found in this front yard: five different varieties of perennial geraniums, including the violet-blue Geranium “Rozanne”; purple fall asters (“Purple is one of my favorite colors,” Harlos said); oregano; rudbeckias; Veronica (tall violet-blue spikes that resemble bottle brushes); oat grass (“I chop it down every spring,” she said); astilbe; brunnera (heart-shaped leaves with small light blue flowers in spring); daisy-like feverfew; perennial hibiscus; ligularia; dahlias and more.







A large number of flowers have been planted in the front garden, including lobelia.


Joseph Cooke / Buffalo News


Caladiums – tropical plants with colorful mottled and veined leaves – are a favorite of hers. At the end of October, she digs up the tubers, lets them air dry and stores them in an open box in the cellar. She also overwinters the dahlias.

The caladiums will add color to the garden in the fall, as will the feverfew.

“It’s not just flowers for color. It’s foliage,” said Harlos, whose garden used to be on the Amherst Garden Walk.

Other plants – such as Hemerocallis “Ruby Rose” (daylily) and spring-blooming lupines and daffodils – are ready for the season.

“Every week this place looks different. Things bloom or they die or I cut them back,” she said.

The front yard also has two trees: a Crimson forest maple with leaves that turn red in the fall and a crabapple tree that her husband planted 50 years ago, around the time they moved into the house. The boom came from Two Guys, the former discount department store, Harlos said. “It was a stick,” she said.

In early May, it has pink buds that open to white flowers. The fruit provides food to birds in winter.

Harlos is a retired math and physics teacher, master gardener, master naturalist, garden writer and speaker. James Harlos is a retired cancer researcher at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They have three grown daughters, three grandchildren and are about to become great-grandparents for the first time.

Harlos said she got serious about gardening in the 1970s. Decades later, her gardens are lavish, even in late August when The Buffalo News visited and photographed them.

“I have ‘rambunctious’ gardens. That’s the word I use,” Harlos said, standing under the lime tree in the backyard.

She has seen many other gardens that are much neater laid out. “I admire it,” she said, “but it’s not me.”

Other Harlos Garden Highlights:

• Her landscaping extends to the porch, where clematis grows on a trellis. Top window boxes are filled with geraniums and coleus, and one of the windows features four teddy bears, a practice that dates back to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when many residents put stuffed animals in their windows for fun spotting for kids. during a walk with their family.

• In the backyard there is a large herb garden next to a gazebo and a gazebo. Planted here: lovage, which she uses in soups; monarda (bee balm); horseradish; soapwort; catnip (grown for the couple’s three cats); catnip; parsley; chives; “running” onions; and three types of sage.

“I freeze my herbs, except sage. I like to dry it and crumble it,” Harlos said.

In the middle of the herb garden is a large fountain. “The honeybees have found a way to drink it without drowning. They’re so smart,’ she said.







herb garden

The herb garden and fountain in the backyard, photographed in late August.


Joseph Cooke / Buffalo News


• Harlos, who teaches beekeeping, also has three honey bee hives at the back of her property, not only to attract the pollinators, but also because she finds the bees interesting. She’s been stabbed; there’s a snarky bee in the woods sometimes, she said.

“I’m the one who bothers them, so I only go out with one purpose — to check them out or give them another ‘super,'” Harlos said, explaining that in a beehive, a super is a four-sided box. containing the frames.

Other backyard beds are planted with robust plants, including black-eyed Susans, milkweed, elderberries, and a long and wispy goat’s beard. “It’s so beautiful because it’s architectural,” Harlos said of the goat’s beard.

After decades of gardening, Harlos enjoys sharing her knowledge with children and adults alike.

“I enjoy teaching everyone. I teach anyone who wants to learn,” she said.

Photos: Outdoor Spaces – Carol Ann Harlos

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