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A Trip to Chuck Hafner's Garden Center Colors Countless Yard Possibilities

Mark Bialczak

The nursery is so wide they've split the front sign into two installments.

"Chuck Hafner's," reads the greeting under a peak toward the left side of the big building at 7265 Buckley Road in North Syracuse. "Garden Center," declares the message under a right peak.

Walk through the doors in the center and you're welcomed by the earthy smell, a striking mix of the scent of flowers and soil and, yes, even a hint of fertilizer.

Look to the left. Look to the right. Look straight ahead. It's a barrage of vibrant colors. Chuck Hafner's is like the Disney World for garden lovers.  Its site boasts of four acres of growing greenhouses, a seven-acre nursery, and 65,000 square feet to display it all.

Credit Mark Bialczak

Springtime is a fine time to visit this storefront for so many things that can make the outside of your place of residence look better.

My dear wife Karen and I make sure we take her bigger Mazda SUV when we venture north from our Syracuse city neighborhood home of Eastwood for our annual haul of plants and such to pretty up our little piece of the earth.

We lean toward perennials, the flowers that we can team to place in either our front or back gardens once and -- with a little love, a pinch of Miracle Gro potting soil, plenty of water and the  never-ending good graces of Mother Nature -- watch spring forth ever year.

Credit Mark Bialczak

Karen loves roses for the hourglass garden out front, a red, a yellow/orange, a white, to go along with a spreading yellow forsythia, several hostas and succulents and a creeping vine.

Also up front are a peony, azalea, hydrangea and several other species whose names escape me. 

Out back we've fenced off a triangle for a butterfly garden that houses four butterfly bushes of different colors, day lilies, daisies, border lilies, lavender, and more species unknown.

Karen's the one who picks the new additions, and I can't keep up with the names, frankly.

The names don't matter much to me as I walk up and down the aisles of Hafners, roaming the two indoor greenhouses filled with hanging basket plants and annuals and herbs and vegetables as well as the perennials. I'll look at the tags and then quickly forget the title as I scurry from section to section in the huge outdoor potion of the nursery, taking in the topiaries and bushes and trees of all sizes.


I'm more of a point-and-ooh kind of guy as I weigh what would look good next to what we've already got in the ground. I'll consider if the broad leaf will look good in contrast with the thin leaf; if the tall guy will look good next to the shortie; if the wide-spreader will flush out the skinnies.

Karen will agree or veto.

Last weekend, after more than an hour of happy wandering, we came home with three purple low plants tagged "Veronica Tidal Pool" for the butterfly garden, and one large violet "PJM Rhododendron" for the hourglass up front.

I do believe we will be back for more before May is over.

Truth be known, you don't have to buy a thing for the wonders of spring to delight the senses at Chuck Hafner's. You don't have to be the type who likes to dig in the dirt to appreciate the colors, the sights and the smells.

And the scope of the compound could impress without one leaf, stem, flower or branch passing before your eyes.

There's a large display of Paul DeLima local coffee for sale by the pound. There's a table full of placards, statues and doodads for dog and cat lovers. Garden gloves galore. Hats. Shoes. Women's gardening fashions. The complete skeptic can bypass the browsing completely and go straight for a table to savor a bite or sip at Jolime Cafe in the back.

Credit Mark Bialczak
You say you need a pair of gloves?

Do you take a yearly spring trip to a nursery to wake up the senses? Are more of a perennial or annual plant lover for your garden? What's your very favorite garden plant?