“I didn’t spend one cent on this garden,” said Dave Derner, who created a backyard retreat at 1088 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, where he lives above Half & Half Trading Co.
He got plants that nurseries or co-ops were going to throw out. Friends gave him plants as well. Many of the plants flourished.
“I just put things in and let them grow,” Derner said. “It’s amazing how things just want to grow.”
He also has a piece of the former Continental Night Club as well as pieces salvaged from demolitions. He has gotten leftover chunks of granite from a local company that makes granite countertops. Derner, a professional sculptor who created the statue of Saint Marguerite d’Youville for D’Youville College, uses many of his own works in his garden. Many of his salvaged items serve as the bases for his sculptures, including one of a series of baby birds, shown at left.
Another way to save money is to be creative with containers. Derner took old crucibles used for melting metal and uses them as planters, which you can see in the photo at right.
Derner’s sculptures can be seen throughout his garden. In the first photo, you can see his sunflower sculptures. Below left, you can see a sample from his series of bronze tiles and ornaments that feature a dragonfly, sunflower and elm leaf. He used these tiles in the elegant gate leading to the backyard, and you can see them pressed into the sidewalk at Buffalo Seminary as well. He sells his work and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Derner has two elm trees in his backyard that are doing well and which he believes must be resistant to Dutch elm disease, which in the 1960s felled the beautiful elm trees that once lined Elmwood Avenue.
In addition to an eclectic array of flowers, Derner plants many vegetables including heirloom potatoes, oregano, leeks, four kinds of mint and three kinds of garlic. He is growing four kinds of onions, including Egyptian onion (a kind of heirloom onion). He also grows 10 kinds of peppers, including bhut jolokia, which is recognized as the hottest pepper in the world. Many of these are grown on his flat roof.
When dandelions pop up in his garden, he eats them, too. While some people enjoy them just in springtime, Derner eats them throughout the year, especially with pasta.
“I can go out and pick 12 different things from my garden in one day,” he said.
His art studio in the Tri-Main Building in Buffalo has large windows that let in plenty of sunlight, allowing him to continue growing his peppers and other plants during the winter.
Derner was originally a biology major, but he took only one botany class.
“I just did this for fun,” he said, looking at the space that was once just lawn. “I guess I’ve sort of become a gardener.”
Derner’s garden was on Garden Walk Buffalo on July 24 and 25.
Other stories from Garden Walk Buffalo: