Flowers of Buffalo: Flowers in the City

Reprinted by permission from Weave News. Written by Steve Peraza.

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

By Tupac Shakur

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

I’ve lived in a city most of my life. Save five years in Canton, NY, as a St. Lawrence student, I have lived in either New York City (21 years) or City of Buffalo (16 years). I’m a city creature, ranging through one or another major city. 

Flowers and gardens have not always been of interest to me. In New York City, I lived close enough to Central Park to enjoy some of nature’s bloom. Three blocks from my railroad apartment in El Barrio was the 97th Street entrance to the park. As a teen, it wasn’t the park’s green spaces that attracted me, but the hilly walkways that outlined the grassy field. I blazed those roads with my bike, catching enough speed to soar off short ramps made of broken sidewalk… 

The Conservatory Garden in NYC’s Central Park

Less thrilling were the various gardens scattered through Central Park. The Conservatory Garden was right by my house. I wasn’t a flower enthusiast in my teens like I am now, but I did bring a few of my teenage girlfriends to the garden. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so I don’t have the selfies to prove it. But I had all kinds of cute moments with cute flowers and a cute ‘shorty’ in Central Park’s Garden. 

Olmsted Flower Bed, Buffalo

Back in the mid-1990s, I had no clue that I lived so close to my future. About a mile and a half south of the Conservatory Garden was Central Park’s Olmsted Flower Bed. It was Frederick Law Olmsted, the nineteenth-century landscape artist, who designed Central Park as well as all the city’s parks in the 1850s. 

Olmsted created Buffalo’s Park System too. In nearly two decades in Buffalo, I have come to adore Delaware Park, the centermost of a six-park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1868. Before my son was born, I would circumnavigate Delaware Park’s big golf park twice in the morning and the evening. This would add up. In 2009, my family at the time was walking twelve miles with a newborn and a bun in the oven. The pretty flowers throughout Delaware Park were certainly part of family conversation on the hoof.  

Rose Garden in Delaware Park

The rapper 2Pac comes to mind because he, too, was sometimes discussed in passing. He wrote a poem, The Rose that Grew from Concrete, with which I always identified. Flowers can be dainty and delicate yet grow in the sandy gravel between city blocks. The audacity of life! I’m that rose in the concrete; the same as Central Park is. 

Tony Sisti Park

The city manages over 180 parks. They are scattered about, in various degrees of upkeep, and in a few cases, entirely uninviting to residents, much less children. While Delaware Park is gorgeous, it is the crown jewel of a park system. The less majestic parks are mere rhinestones.

Sculpture in Sisti Park

Sisti Park can be that way. It’s located at the intersection of Franklin and North Streets in downtown Buffalo – at the foot of Linwood Avenue. Some mornings, Sisti Park shines in the sunlight. Other mornings, it’s an eyesore. Sisti Park is at its best when decorated in flowers. 

The City of Buffalo reports that 90 percent of Buffalonians live within a 10-minute walk of a park. The datum suggests that parks are numerous, easy to access, and attractive. As you might imagine this is not always the case. 

Tony Sisti Park, however, is within a 10-minute walk from where I live. It’s a little farther than Central Park was from my Manhattan apartment but still only an amble away. There’s a bronze sculpture at the center of the park, designed by Tony Sisti, the park’s namesake, an artist who was born in New York City but transplanted to Buffalo where he made a name for himself in public art. Of course, there are flowers at Sisti Park, including beautiful roses who ‘learned to walk without having feet’, moving to Buffalo soil from New York City concrete.    

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