Buffalo Is Not A Cold Climate

– Posted in: What's up/blooming

What do you think of when you think of Buffalo? All. That. Snow. Well, all that snow comes from moist air over Lake Erie. All that snow insulates the soil and protects the plants. And Lake Erie, big enough to be an inland ocean, moderates the climate year round, so that it is cooler in summer than where I live, and warmer in winter. As proof I submit:

My blue hydrangea is not even in bud yet, and look at this one in Buffalo.

image of Acanthus

This is not reliably hardy in Zone 5, yet I saw it growing in several Buffalo gardens

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, Acanthus hungaricus is not reliably hardy in Zone 5, yet I saw it growing in many Buffalo gardens. And look at the bee balm behind the spiky plant:
outdoor eating area

The bee balm is tall enough to function as a privacy screen

Here’s an unobstructed view of that same clump:
image of bee balm clump

The biggest, most bounteous bee balm I've ever seen.

My bee balm never gets that big! I almost wondered if the gardener had a magic elixir, sort of like hair tonic, to get it grow like that, but then I saw it just as tall and luxuriant in other gardens, and concluded that bee balm just does well here.

From these and many other pieces of evidence, I conclude that Buffalo has a milder winter (in terms of temperature) and a longer growing season than what you would find in a cold climate. I’ve been visiting Buffalo with a bunch of other garden bloggers, and I can testify it’s a great place to grow a wide variety of garden plants. So what if it snows? They know how to handle it and it’s good for the plants. Try it, you’ll like it.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

Lynn July 19, 2010, 4:54 pm

I know! What has amazed me to learn about Buffalo and Rochester both are the things people keep in pots all year OUTSIDE although I’ve been told that doing that here is certain to be a plant’s death sentence. So that’s the benefit of all that snow cover (though I really like Wise Acre’s take on it, too!) Nice to see you there and be a part of a great meetup. P.S. Plantations keeps plenty of Acanthus, and I see it elsewhere on campus, not always in protected spots. I don’t grow it, so don’t know how it would do outside the Ithaca/campus heat island.
.-= Lynn´s last blog ..we like bikes and we like knitters =-.

Cindy, MCOK July 18, 2010, 11:00 pm

Buffalo was definitely not a cold climate while we were there! Those Monardas were just breathtaking … well, shoot, to this Southern gardener, just about everything we saw plant-wise was breathtaking!

Craig @ Ellis Hollow July 14, 2010, 5:38 pm

Monarda is aka Oswego Tea. I’m guessing it grows well there, too, what with all the reliable snow cover. Maybe they should call it Lake Effect.

Jim/ArtofGardening.org July 13, 2010, 8:17 pm

On behalf of the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, I thank you for the headline to this post. If we say it, it feels like “advertising.” Getting you to say it justifies all our efforts!

It was a pleasure to finally meet you in person this weekend.
.-= Jim/ArtofGardening.org´s last blog ..It may be the only garden tour to ever get a standing ovation =-.

Susan Reimer July 13, 2010, 11:39 am


A weekend in Buffalo and suddenly I am a huge fan of upstate New York, snow and Lake Erie. Who knew?

.-= Susan Reimer´s last blog ..You say tomato I say- you cant fool me =-.

commonweeder July 13, 2010, 8:46 am

One of the great topics of conversation as I wandered through Buffalo’s gardens with other bloggers was hardiness and zones. Can you grow this? In that zone? I could never grow this. All proving that zone designations are a guide, but they don’t tell you everything about weather or what is likely to thrive in your garden.
.-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Doozy of a Dahlia =-.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter July 12, 2010, 11:49 pm

I was convinced when I saw Acanthus growing large and lush in an unprotected location. And what about the size of those Hydrangea quercifolias?

Mary Schier July 12, 2010, 6:00 pm

I agree, Kathy. I could not believe that Buffalo was only a half or even a whole zone warmer than where I live in Minnesota. I also suspected they were getting some kind of fertilizer out of the lake because I have never seen plants as big as some of the ones in Buffalo. That monarda, yes, but also the black-eyed Susans were monsters in a couple of those yards! Great time, though, and it was great to meet you in person.

Miriam July 12, 2010, 3:54 pm

I did High School in St. Catharines, Ontario and I’m always amazed by what can be grown in the area North West of Buffalo (on the other side of the Niagara Escarpment). I always attributed it to the fact that they don’t get the lake effect snow that Buffalo does. But it is a relatively warm area, known for having a microclimate suitable to wineries and fruit production such as peaches.

Gail July 12, 2010, 11:09 am

it was the best looking monarda ever! I am determined to have more of it here…May have to redo soil in a bed completely to achieve even half its height! It was good to see you and spend time visiting~thank you for the garden gifts! They will make my fall and spring garden shine! xxgail

Frances July 12, 2010, 8:10 am

Hi Kathy, I agree, that Monarda was like none I have ever seen before and I wondered about the *how* of it too. Weren’t the gardens all fabulous? So nice to visit with you again and thanks for the poeticus! Buffalo is a treasure trove of gardens, and people. 🙂
.-= Frances´s last blog ..Plants And Pals From Buffa10 =-.

wiseacre July 11, 2010, 7:35 pm

I knew that 🙂
I was germinated and grew there until transplanted north of the Adirondacks, where I’ve seen some real cold. (but not the last decade)

I remember the snow banks we used to climb between the sidewalk and street seemed like the Alps. Drift jumping from telephone poles was an early extreme sport in my neighborhood. We also surfed the snowy streets by hanging on to car bumpers. I believe Buffalo had the highest level of snowballs thrown at cars at least while I was a kid. Surprised any of us kids managed to live long enough to reproduce.

Have fun, wish I could have made it.
.-= wiseacre´s last blog ..Betty’s Garden =-.

Katie July 11, 2010, 6:31 pm

Isn’t it amazing that just a short car ride away, the climate is so much different? That bee balm is pretty crazy.