Idiot politician threatens Buffalo Botanical Gardens, please help



Thanks for nothing, Mr. Collins. It’s like I’ve said all along. Most politicians have an inbred aversion to such things as flowers, paintings, dancers, actors, plays, and literature. Oh, right, and library access.

See, when you run government like a rich guy who got lucky business, you can’t really understand why other people would need any of the things you’ve taken for granted (though clearly ignored) for your entire life.

Garden writers from Idaho, North Carolina, and Wisonsin traveled far to see the BG.

I wonder how many politicians rely on the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.  Many of you saw this magnificent facility last summer, during Garden Bloggers Buffa10. It needs work—and hopefully will continue to get it—but what it has right now is enough to entrance local families on a regular basis and impress out-of-town visitors whenever they get a chance to see it. It is one of three Lord & Burnham conservatories sited in an Olmsted park.  It is the one place in Western New York where you can escape to the tropics in a twenty minute drive. In February.

That might impress some people, but clearly it is not enough for the leader of our county, who has withheld funding from the facility for the last year and plans the same treatment in 2011.


Look, we all know money is tight. But those of us who pay attention also know that the funds allocated to the Botanical Gardens and every other cultural organization in the area—AND the libraries—would not be enough to make a $2 dent in anyone’s property taxes. Srsly. That's not where the money is.

Fund the gardens. Fund the theaters. Fund the galleries. And for god sakes, fund the libraries. We can’t afford to have another generation growing up as ignorant as YOU, Mr. Collins, clearly are.

If you agree and want to advocate, here's an email, [email protected], and here's a phone number: 716-842-0490. Thanks! 

And thanks to all our Garden Rant readers. For reading.

PS. I would simply add, regarding the BG, that it is a county-owned asset. Which makes it seems all the stranger that the county wants to withhold funding.


Previous articleGardenRant Cocktail Hour: British Invasion
Next articleGot a Public Garden to Thank?

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I sent the following email to dear Mr. Collins. I tried to avoid being offensive since I’m sure he takes his job seriously.

    God knows the competition for the Klutz of the Year award among politicians across our fine country is fierce; each one working very hard to demonstrate all lack of class except maybe keeping the American Legion Hall in good repair. Mr. Collins did something right.
    I can’t totally blame Mr. Collins for his neanderthal behavior entirely; if the good citizens in his county really gave a damn, they would not let him be so stupid. I sure hope his busy schedule did not keep him away from viewing the latest thrilling cultural episodes of Dancing With The Stars. Now there is where culture in America is at
    its finest. Thank God for reality television Mr. Coillins. The people of western New York state do not really need a botanical garden. They can see all those tropical plants on Survivor every week and not have to look for parking. As a judge of cultural affairs for the midwest I will submit you Mr. Collins for this infamous award – Klutz of The Year in Buffalo New York. Congratulations.
    Jeff Ball, garden writer.

  2. Get those masses of unemployed a chance to do something useful.

    Rudy Giulani transformed the dirty, abandoned parks of New York City to shine and set trends.

    Theaters and else I do not care about. Those are other eggs, do not place them in the same basket please.

  3. Never heard of it/them, the BBG.
    And yet I live not 2 miles south of the little Centennial Park conservatory here in Toronto.
    And drive to Buffalo with a friend every 2 months (Walden galleria 🙁 )
    YOUR blog posting has put the BBG on MY must-see on our next trip.

  4. I empathize … but do not agree. To be certain, The Buffalo Botanical Garden needs support — everyone’s support, as do similar projects around this nation and world. However, it need not be government support. I might even argue that it should not be government supported at all. It is exactly this kind of default thinking – that government is responsible for everything – that has gotten us into the mess we now find ourselves in.

    The government is broke! (In more ways than one.) We have behaved like suckling pigs at the government nipple. And now – as all little pigs do – we begin whining when it is time to get weaned.

    This is just the first round of governmental cuts — there will be many more. Instead of whining, start getting serious about how to cut your reliance upon government handouts. Organize your fundraisers. Establish your endowments. Seek the independence that free this public jewel from the both the restraints and mercurial whims of government.

    The Crazy Horse monument project has never accepted a dime from the government. And yet, it just keeps chugging along. They knew all along what many of us have yet to realize. Don’t place your hopes on government officials — they will always eventually let you down.

    Personally, I invest my money and efforts into what I (not the government) determine are worthy efforts. It works — but I need YOUR help. 😉

    Dan Mays
    Walcott, Iowa

  5. I would have to agree with Dan’s comment above. Where is the money to come from? I would assume that Buffalo has some of the same issues we face here in Sacramento. There is just no money left for things you or I might find important, yet the majority of people would not find critical.

    Better to start using private funds to support these projects. I hate having to name these things after their benefactors, Oracle hall, Microsoft plaza, etc., but they are the ones with the money, and ability to see these types of projects through. I am afraid that most people in you location or mine would just as soon see money spent elsewhere. My dad worked all his life in the park department, as was always complaining about the priorities of city hall. That was 20 years ago. It’s not going to change anytime soon.

  6. I had a wonderful visit this summer to the Botanical Gardens with the garden writers and loved it. Also planned to visit during the winter as it’s not too far from Toronto. A little trip to a paradise of growing things when snow is high on the grounsd.

    Gardens and parks are so necessary for a city filled with concrete. I hope the BG gets the funds it needs.

  7. Stop all funding on a County-owned property? Now THAT is stupid.

    But supporters MUST form a Friends of group and stop reinventing wheels – – research how other cities are saving their parks and gardens. Do fund-raisers!

    “Rudy Giulani transformed the dirty, abandoned parks of New York City to shine and set trends.” OH NO HE DID NOT. Commissioner Henry Stern did and he galvanized masses of volunteers – who used their own sweat, tears, money, and smarts to apply for grants and pass legislation to save their parks. Rudy my butt! ANTIGONUM is so wrong!

  8. I agree with Mr. Mays. In my opinion, it is not an appropriate use the taxpayer’s money at large to sustain a tropical eco-diorama under glass. Governments protect freedom and opportunity. They should make for safe communities and good schools. If there is tax money left over, the majority decides where that money should go. Should I never experience a tropical rainforest, it is not the fault of my government. It is my fault for not making it a priority to save for and plan such a trip-or contribute my own discretionary funds on a regular basis in support of such a conservatory.
    The title of your essay begins “Idiot politician threatens…” Have you met Mr. Collins, and discussed this issue with him, and asked him about his reasons for going into public life? If you have done this, and not gotten an answer to your liking, I could understand your calling his behavior ill-advised, or poorly thought out. I would suggest that he is entitled to the basic respect one accords every person-even if he does not know a fern from a football, or disagrees with you. Mr. Ball makes a telling statement; he apparently is a “judge of cultural affairs for the Midwest”. I was not aware he had this position, but I will say being judgmental takes not so much thought, effort or committment.
    You and Mr. Ball have the freedom to name call all you want, but what good does that do the BBG? You are a very good writer, and I am sure you have a substantial readership. You could put that to some constructive use in any number of ways in support of the BBG; Mr. Mays has some very good ideas. If you value the BBG, contribute as big a check as you can, or volunteer to help. If you are passionate about the place, make it your business to successfully persuade others to support it.

  9. The ugliness of politics what’s a person to do? As a lover of botanical gardens and that gorgeous conservatory I see in the pics I almost melt inside.

    Yet at the same time my husband and I are middle classers who work constantly to stay afloat barely have time to enjoy our own little spot of heaven we have been creating for ourselves in the backyard. I to have to question where the money is being spent? All around us foreclosures, unemployment, schools being shut down, programs for kids eliminated and the health care issue.

    It really saddens me because I don’t want to see any of these beautiful parks be closed or left neglected but at the same time families need roofs over their heads and a chance for a decent education.

  10. The government money comes from us. At a local level we get to vote on how we want local taxes spent. Is there a levy to support the botanical gardens? If so, hope it isn’t coming up for vote very soon. If you try to pass one, Good luck. In a neighboring ocunty the library levy went down by THREE votes. Resulting in all the branches being closed. So don’t just blame the big bad politician, the voters don’t go for culture either.

  11. Elizabeth, I hear you loud and clear. As to libraries, I used to serve on our library board which gets its funding from the two towns in the school district. My town, I’m ashamed to say, has consistently funded its share at the same miniscule level for the last decade. While sitting on a pile of money they’re hoarding that’s to be used to build a new town hall (according to some sources). Soooo short-sighted. Regarding the BBG, funding is always a problem (I volunteer at Sonnenberg Gardens, so I know this all too well). I’m sorry, but if the county owns the BBG, and your taxes fund the county’s operations, then they bloody well should fund it to the best of their ability. In an ideal world, private donors would always generously keep the place going, but as someone else pointed out, if you don’t stroke their ego by naming it after them, most private donors won’t play ball. The real problem is that no one will approach anything with a long-term view anymore – it’s all about today, and let’s just kick the can down the road and let someone else worry about tomorrow. I’ll bet that if the Buffalo Bills made any noise about wanting a new stadium or hinted at moving out of Buffalo, the county would rush at them with bags full of money!

Comments are closed.