I love gardens. Formal gardens. Wild gardens. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. Elaborate gardens. Simple gardens. Monochromatic or colorful. Cozy or sprawling. Sunny or shady. Each with its own personality, each with its own effect on my senses and my psyche.

Sadly, I’m not nearly as fond of gardening as I am of gardens. Neither am I particularly good at it. When we first bought our house, I naively thought I could put in a perennial garden once and be done. Seasoned gardeners are laughing at that sentence. I never anticipated the soil preparation, the weeding, the rearranging, the dividing, the dead-heading, the mulching, and all the other tasks required to keep it looking good through the season and through the years.

This suburban garden incorporating playful elements for the grandkids

I share a vegetable garden with a friend. That works out nicely. He does all the heavy duty stuff, like running the rototiller and weed-whacking around the edges. I deal with the weeds, some years better than others. We usually end up with a reasonable amount of food, if not a neat and tidy garden. I so envy the kitchen garden at Audubon Community Nature Center. It is created and tended by volunteers – and I SO appreciate all the tender loving care they give to make it look beautiful while it produces food. That garden has provided me more than one lunchtime salad on days when I forget to bring food from home.

And when I need food for the soul, I appreciate the garden volunteers who work the ACNC butterfly, bird, and native plants gardens. I may sit inside at the back windows and watch birds take shelter in the shrubs, then dash to the plants or feeders for a snack. Or I’ll head to the top of the hill outside the original part of the building to see who might be collecting nectar from the colorful flowers thriving there. Just outside the front door, textures and colors delight the senses in the native plant garden, and sometimes a frog or two is hanging out in the water feature.

I try to take a different route each day, whether by car on my way to work or during my daily walk, to check out the neighbors’ gardens, both for my enjoyment, but also for inspiration.

This garden borrows from the surrounding landscape to create a sweeping view.

Gardening is a big part of what we do at Audubon. It is the perfect vehicle for addressing all three of our educational goals. Experience: It allows you to spend time outdoors connecting directly with the natural world. Understand: It helps you to understand the interactions between soil, plants, and animals as you create a mini-ecosystem. Act: Gardening is an act of co-creation that can make the world a better place – for you, as well as for wildlife. That’s why you will see many opportunities to see gardens and learn how to make your own when you visit auduboncnc.org.

The Secret Gardens Tour is a very special experience, letting you behind the gates of several private gardens. A series of hands-on, taste buds-on workshops with a couple who produces a large percentage of the food they eat may inspire you to plant a pear or nut tree, or dig up a patch of ground and plant other tasty treats. Curious how to go about using a raised bed approach? We have a workshop for that, too. For more information on these and other offerings, visit Audubon’s program listing. 

  • Secret Gardens Tour – July 1, 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Raised Beds – July 6, 2017, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
  • Maintaining Your Garden – July 16, 2017, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
  • Bonsai for Beginners – July 23, 2017, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Late Summer Harvests – August 20, 2017, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Gigantic pots brimming with colorful annuals.

Whether you want to garden, do garden, used to garden, or want to garden better, nature welcomes you. Let the wide array of natural landscapes inspire the possibilities. Work with the sun and the rain and the soil to nurture and grow your own food, bouquets, and well-being. Gain insight into the strength of the relationships that exist within nature through a garden. Grow, in every way possible.

Audubon Community Nature Center (ACNC) builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. It is located at 1600 Riverside Road, one quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. The gardens and grounds are open from dawn until dusk daily, free of charge. The Nature Center’s summer hours are 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday when a fee of $6 is charged of non-member adults. Sunday is free admission from 1:00-4:30 p.m. For more information, call (716) 569-2345 or visit auduboncnc.org.

Jennifer Schlick is Program Director at ACNC.