Enjoy outdoor gardens every day of the week at Botanical Gardens; if it rains, see exhibits inside

Posted on July 09, 2014 by Erin Grajek | 0 Comments

Enjoy outdoor gardens every day of the week at Botanical Gardens; if it rains, see exhibits inside

Posted on
July 8, 2014

gazebo at Buffalo Botanical Gardens

Explore the outdoor gardens at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

coleus showpiece at Buffalo Botanical Gardens

Check out the coleus showpiece. Perhaps you can take this idea and do it on a smaller scale in your garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofo

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Do you realize you can visit gardens every day of the week in Western New York?

There are garden walks as part of the National Garden Festival every weekend through Aug. 2.

Open Gardens continue on Thursdays and Friday through the end of July.

And each day you can visit the outdoor gardens of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo.

I think a lot of visitors to the Botanical Gardens walk in the front door and never realize what they’re missing outside.

There are lovely flower beds lining the front walkway, but step off the sidewalk and stroll to your left. You’ll find paths and a gazebo and sunny gardens and shady gardens.

One area is designated as the Bicentennial Peace Garden and commemorates two centuries of peace with Canada. The wonderful relationship we have that nation is something to be treasured. It’s a quiet, meditative spot where you can rest and relax.

colorful containers at Buffalo Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens brings the outdoors inside during the celebration of Coleus and Color Show. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Of course, if it rains, there’s plenty to see inside the Botanical Gardens.

The Celebration of Coleus and Color, sponsored by, continues through Sunday, July 27. In addition to the outside gardens, you’ll see spectacular displays inside. We gave you a preview of some of the coleus plants that are used as well as tips on creating containers. Now you can see the finished pieces.

For the kids, there are indoor and outdoor children’s gardens as well.

See all that the Botanical Gardens has to offer– outdoors as well as indoors.

Botanical Gardens launches new butterfly exhibit

Posted on June 09, 2014 by Erin Grajek | 0 Comments

Buffalo News - City & Region

By Lisa Khoury | News Staff Reporter
on June 8, 2014 - 6:20 PM, updated June 9, 2014 at 8:20 AM

Liz Wheeler keeps butterfly pins, pictures and statues in and around her West Seneca home. The life of the insect – which starts as a caterpillar, becomes a butterfly and then lays eggs to renew the cycle – is symbolic for her family.

Her grandmother Jean, who died a few years ago, loved butterflies.

“When she started with cancer, they became a symbol of her changing life,” Wheeler said as tears filled her eyes. “Just how life evolves for you, and how when change comes it’s not necessarily bad.”

Wheeler, who has a multicolored butterfly tattoo on her forearm with “Hope” written in the middle, and her husband, Brian, took their three children to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens on Sunday for the launch of its first-ever Native Butterfly Exhibit. The exhibit has 15 to 20 Monarch butterflies, which are native to Western New York and parts of Canada.

The butterfly display and its adjacent chrysalis and caterpillar enclosure show the butterfly in its different stages of life. The exhibit will be open until early fall and is included in general admission, according to Marketing Director Erin Grajek.

The Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm in Clarence supplies the butterflies. The Botanical Gardens, in collaboration with the farm and a private donor, funded the new exhibit.

To celebrate the opening Sunday, the Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm set up an enclosed tent where visitors could interact with Monarch butterflies. John, Wheeler’s 9-year-old son, laughed as a Monarch landed on his palm, expanding its big orange and black wings. John often chases butterflies in his yard in West Seneca but has never been able to catch one.

“It feels like prickles touching you,” he said.

Throughout the summer, the gardens will be selling plants on which caterpillars and butterflies feed. Grajek hopes those who visit the exhibit purchase the host plants – particularly milkweed, the Monarch caterpillar’s only food source – for their gardens, to sustain the dwindling pollinator populations in Western New York. Residents can plant milkweed in their gardens for caterpillars to eat, as well as for butterflies to get nectar and lay their eggs.

Sunday, the Wheeler family bought milkweed, which has been disappearing from American fields over the past 10 years because farmers have switched to genetically modified corn and soybeans that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate that kills other plants.

The Wheelers plan to plant the milkweed in the new garden they’re planting next to their front porch. Wheeler hopes the milkweed bring more butterflies around their home because she spots them only a couple of times per year.

To Wheeler, a butterfly’s symbol of the renewal and cycle of life is important for her 9-year-old, 5-year-old and 1-year-old children to see while growing up.

“Not all change is bad, that’s what they need to understand,” Wheeler said. “There’s a lot of changes and not everyone’s around for a long time and then things do happen. It might be a bad thing for a little while and you might not understand, but something good always comes out of it in some way, no matter what that situation may be.”

Butterflies, like bees, are pollinators that help produce flowers, which in turn contribute to producing food. “As a gardener, you kind of have to get used to half-eaten leaves because that’s a good thing and that means the caterpillars are there, they’re getting healthy and happy and they’ll eventually turn into a butterfly,” Grajek said.

The Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm will switch out the butterflies every couple weeks, as a butterfly’s lifespan is several weeks long. David O’Donnell, the owner of Eastern Monarch in Clarence, will bring in native butterflies like Viceroys, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Mourning Cloaks, White Admirals, Cabbage Whites and Common Sulfars.

Butterflies typically live for four to six weeks. Monarchs born in late August, though, migrate to Mexico and can live up to a year.

But in the last decade, there has been a steady decrease in the size of the migration. People often tear out milkweed from their yards because they think it smells bad or is an unnecessary plant. Farmers use herbicides more regularly throughout the country, which has killed many of the plants, according to the Internet website World Wild Life.

The number of Monarch butterflies that made it to Mexico in November 2013 was the lowest since 1993. Monarchs occupied 1.65 acres of forestland in Mexico last year, a 43.7 percent decrease from December 2012, World Wild Life reported. The Wheelers hope their new milkweed plants will help to keep more butterflies alive. Plus, the more butterflies that fly around their home, the more examples there will be for their children to witness the natural cycle of life.


CLICK HERE for more photos!

Native Butterfly Exhibit to Open June 8!

Posted on June 06, 2014 by Erin Grajek | 0 Comments

The Botanical Gardens is opening their new Native Butterfly Exhibit with a fun family event, Monarch Madness, on June 8 from 10am-5pm. This event will welcome monarchs and other native butterflies to their new exhibit at the Botanical Gardens which will be on display for several weeks this summer.

Kid and family friendly butterfly and pollinator activities will take place including; Noodle Life Cycle crafts, Very Hungry Caterpillar crafts, Butterfly Finger Puppets, Pollinator Passport Games and more. Visitors can make friends with butterflies and walk through an enclosure set up inside the Botanical Gardens with the folks from the Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm. Visitor can find out more about the importance of planting butterfly host and nectar plants in their gardens to help increase the population of these amazing creatures. Host and nectar plants will be available for sale at the event.

The Native Butterfly Exhibit was made possible by the generous support of Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm and Gary and Deborah Hill. Admission to Monarch Madness and the Native Butterfly Exhibit is included with paid admission to the Botanical Gardens.

For more information visit us at The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing appreciation for and knowledge of plant life and its connection to people and cultures through its documented living plant collection, historic conservatory, education, research and exhibits.


We are a Blue Star Museum!

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Erin Grajek | 0 Comments

We are a Blue Star Museum!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Blue Star Museums?
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day, May 26, through Labor Day, September 1, 2014.

Which museums are participating?
More than 2,000 (and counting) museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa are participating in Blue Star Museums. These include children's museums, fine art museums, history and science museums, and nature centers.

Who is eligible for free museum admission through Blue Star Museums?
The free admission program is available to any bearer of a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active duty U.S. military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps - and up to five family members.

How many military personnel and/or family members are allowed in for free per visit?
The military ID holder plus up to five family members. The military ID holder can either be active duty service member or other dependent family member with the appropriate ID card. The active duty member does not have to be present for family members to use the program.

How do you define a family member?
A family member of active duty military may include a spouse or child, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.

What if my spouse is deployed? Can my family and I still participate?
Yes, spouses of deployed military are eligible for Blue Star Museums. Just bring your DD Form 1173 ID Card, or DD Form 1173-1 ID Card, for active duty military family members.

What if my spouse is not deployed, but cannot come to the museum with the family. Can my family and I still participate?
Yes, your family can still participate, as the active duty member does not have to be present to use the program. Just bring your DD Form 1173 ID Card, or DD Form 1173-1 ID Card, for active duty military family members.

How many military personnel and/or family members are allowed in for free per visit?
The military ID holder plus up to five family members.

What if my child is under the age of 10 and doesn't yet have a military ID?
Children under the age of 10 without military ID are welcome to attend with their parents who either hold a Geneva Convention Common Access Card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID Card, or a DD Form 1173-1 ID Card.

Does the Blue Star Museums program include admission for veterans and retirees? For unmarried partners? For parents with a child currently serving on active duty, or for those who have lost a child on active duty?
Admission for these individuals is not included in the scope of this program, unless they are the bearer of a Geneva Convention Common Access Card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID Card, or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card.

Blue Star Museums is an effort to improve the quality of life for active duty military families, especially focusing on the approximately 1 million children who have had at least one parent deployed. Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration. This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together.

Will I receive free entry to special, fee-based exhibits?
Some special or limited-time museum exhibits may not be included in this free admission program. For questions on particular exhibits or museums, please contact the museum directly.

Is there a limit on the number of Blue Star Museums I can visit this summer?
No, there is no limit on the number of participating museums that eligible parties can visit.

If a museum already offers free admission, can it still participate in Blue Star Museums?
Museums with free admission are also welcome to join the Blue Star Museums list on the NEA website.

How can museums join the Blue Star Museums program?
Museums that wish to participate in Blue Star Museums may contact, or Wendy Clark at 202-682-5451.

Who are the national partners on Blue Star Museums?
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America. Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military families from all ranks and services, including guard and reserve, dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering military families. The effort to recruit museums has involved partnerships with the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Children’s Museums, the American Association of State and Local History, and the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

- See more at:

Humble bees create a buzz at Botanical Gardens festival

Posted on May 05, 2014 by Erin Grajek | 0 Comments

Buffalo News - City & Region - Sunday - May 3, 2014

With a “waggle-dance” in the hive, honeybees signal to their work mates how to find the flower patch out there that will provide their food.

But who can waggle-dance clearly, or forage for nectar, when drunk on powerful pesticides?

“I think ‘being drunk’ is a good analogy because they are just not as productive,” said Reed M. Johnson, an entomology professor from Ohio State University and a guest of honor – second only to the honeybees themselves – at a special event Saturday at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

For the second year in a row, the Botanical Gardens paid tribute to the sophisticated air force that is crucial to the dinner table. Pollination by honeybees sustains crops of apples, cherries, watermelons, raspberries, onions and especially almonds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture values the more than 90 crops that bees pollinate at $15 billion a year.

Honeybees have been dying off in large numbers. The commercial beekeepers who make their colonies available to farmers noticed a decade ago that bees were abandoning their hives. The phenomenon came to be known as “colony collapse disorder.’’ Suspicion landed on a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids.

Chemically similar to nicotine, neonicotinoids are suspected in bee die-offs in Germany and France, as well. A Harvard University study in 2012 linked bee deaths to one specific and widely used neonicotinoid. A study in the United Kingdom drew similar findings.

Johnson, who is wiry, youthful and loves talking about honeybees, says more scientific study is needed to conclusively link neonicotinoids to colony collapse disorder. But he agrees insecticides are among the threats to bees.

“If they get just a little dose, does that mess up their ability to communicate and to maintain this complex society?” he said. “There’s all sorts of intricate things that are going on in there, and a little bit of insecticide may throw things off.’’

Honeybees face other dangers. Herbicides, for example, suppress an important source of nutrition – flowering weeds. Then there’s the Varroa mite.

Imagine if humans had a rat clinging to their shoulder blades sucking out blood. That’s what Varroa mites are to honeybees, said Gary Piatek, who keeps bees for honey at his Grace Apiaries in Arcade and was at Saturday’s event, which was attended by about 75 people.

“Not only do they suck their blood, they also vector viruses into the hive,” Piatek said of the parasitic relationship between Varroa mites and honeybees. “They weaken the immune system of the whole hive, so consequently the hive is more susceptible to invading viruses. Bees do not have a very strong immune system on their own.’’

The pesticide industry has lashed back at efforts to blame its products for colony collapse disorder: “There is a difference between natural bee loss and the condition referred to as ‘colony collapse disorder,’ the industry group CropLife America says on its website. “CCD is a clearly defined syndrome with specific symptoms, and scientists cannot attribute these losses to any singular cause.’’

Meanwhile, everyone involved in the discussion about honeybees agrees they are invaluable to agriculture and that the world must maintain adequate supplies to pollinate crops. Some commentators have voiced fears that honeybees are the canary in the coal mine, and that other pollinators, such as butterflies, may suffer as well.

Piatek lost about half of his bees this winter, not to Varroa mites or pesticides but to the brutal cold. In milder winters, bees can survive with minimal losses – a testament to their communal nature.

The bees, Piatek said, lock themselves into a tight cluster around the queen in an effort to keep their hive at 70 degrees. As temperatures drop, the cluster tightens. But the bees at the outer reaches are most susceptible to the cold and most likely to die off.

In winter, bees can live for months, because they are not out working from sunup to sundown. In summer, bees survive for around four weeks – until their wings give out. They literally work themselves to death.

The queen’s role is to lay the eggs and keep the colony populated. She mates in flight with the males, who make up just about 5 percent of a colony and have little other role. While the males, or drones, are allowed a mostly sedentary, couch-potato lifestyle, they die after successfully mating once.

The worker bees are females but with undeveloped female parts, Piatek said. The youngest of them clean the hive. At about two weeks they will venture out. The older workers also guard the entrance to the hive.

A queen bee can live up to four years, Piatek said. As she weakens, the other bees sense this and will kill her. Meanwhile, new cells have been created in the hive for a lineup of would-be queens. The first to hatch and sip the special jelly that allows her female parts to develop will kill the eggs in the other queen cells, Piatek said. She then establishes herself as the hive’s egg-laying machine.

Karl von Frisch, an Austrian ethologist who died in 1982, discovered that a bee will dance to provide the location of a patch of flowers. A round dance indicates a closer food source, a waggle dance indicates one more distant. The other bees crowd around to pick up the message.

“They can communicate the distance to a patch of flowers and the direction. And they can kind of rate the source by how vigorously they will do this communication,’’ said Johnson, the associate professor from Ohio State.

“I just think bees are fascinating creatures,” he said.


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