The Garden's at Murder Creek
Native Tree and Bush collection
Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem
The Garden's at Murder Creek, just under 10 acres, sits along Murder Creek where it joins Tonawanda Creek. Five acres of pasture land include a pond, and four acres of seasonally flooded wetlands, divided by a forest line of maples and cherries. The property was purchased as a dream of restoring Great Lakes native plants to knit together an ecosystem.
The pasture land, a former horse pasture, now has formal English Cottage garden-style beds, five meadows and the CW Native Plant nursery. The forest tree line, once clear cut for precious hardwood, has been cleared of some invasive plants but the effort is ongoing. Some mid-canopy woody species have been added to increase the diversity. The seasonally flooded creek is full of important native plants, (purple stem angelica, Canadian anemone, and wood nettle) along with non-native invasives (stinging nettle, yellow iris and garlic mustard).
The Formal Garden Beds
The formal gardens between the house and Tonawanda Creek Road are full of butterfly host plants (milkweed, golden alexander, turtlehead) and pollinator plants (bee balm, spiderwort, beardtongue, wild columbine). The property has every sun, soil, and moisture conditions found in Western New York. Full sun clay, full sun dry, well drained sandy loam in part shade and full sun, seasonally flooded well drained and clay soils, a forest full of dappled shade and seasonally flooded soil subject to ice sheer. Upon arriving at the Gardens a self guided map and plant list of the property will be provided.
The Trees and Bushes
From the beginning, keystone species were critical. Since 2015 every tree and bush native to the Great Lakes have been planted. This has been quite an undertaking but the woody species are the supportive structures of the ecosystem while the perennials are the supportive tissue. Combating climate change will require a holistic understanding plant communities.
Lake Phantom is named for the family's Black Lab. We had hoped to have the house completed in time for Phantom to swim in the waters. It was his greatest joy. Sadly, Phantom passed before we could finish it. We honor him and remember his life.
Another life is remembered at Lake Phantom. During the pandemic a student of mine, James Lyons, was lost tragically. A brilliant young man, James was at the top of his class and was accepted to low school before his promise was cut short. In his memory an American hornbeam was planted along the pond.
Lake Phantom is stocked with bass, perch, pond trout, sunfish, and catfish.
In the End...
We wanted to know if recreating the ecosystem would encourage the insects, pollinators and birds return.
We have found that by knitting the ecosystem back together unusual butterflies and moths have been observed. A golden bumblebee has been discovered on the property the last few summers.
Additionally, the birds have been growing in diversity. Few, if any, birds were found on the property those first years. It is hard to image that was so when walking around the gardens now. Bluebirds, tree swallows, barn swallows and a phoebe pair next on the property. Nearly two dozen Baltimore orioles, pairs of Orchard orioles, and numerous hummingbirds rely on the property. We installed a purple martin house the spring of 2022 and by the summer of 2023 it was completely full of nesting pairs.
Tree frogs, peepers, bull frogs, toads, dragonflies, painted turtles and more can be found hiding in plain sight.