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Queens Chronicle

Painted ladies take flight at Botanical Garden

QBG opens its first butterfly garden

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:30 am

It’s not your typical greenhouse-style butterfly garden, but it still will get the job done.

“Next month you won’t believe how many butterflies there are,” Queens Botanical Garden Intergenerational Garden Coordinator Maureen Regan said.

Last Saturday QBG opened its first butterfly garden.

Regan started working with high school students from the Lowell School, a school in Flushing for students with learning disabilities, in February.

“They can’t learn the traditional way,” said Regan. “So I wanted to create a project that was fun and playful.”

The garden is a way to reinforce what the students learn in the classroom. They measured out seeds and plot sizes as well as socialized with other gardeners and at the end of the day reflected in a journal about what they learned.

Instead of building a greenhouse to keep the butterflies inside, the team worked to build an about 35-by-10-foot winding garden surrounded by a moat, picking plants to entice the butterflies. The gardeners put in some flowers shaped like trumpets, butterflies’ favorite flower shape. Volunteers plan to plant rice in the moat to help retain water.

They planted fennel, dill, zinnias, echinacea and many plants from the parsley family.

Butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on this family of plants so that when they hatch, the caterpillars have a food source, said Regan, who after 20 years of working in the fashion industry went back to school for horticulture therapy.

The team tried out a sample butterfly garden last year, which attracted dozens of butterflies from monarchs to cloudless sulphurs, a light yellow variety.

Last Saturday students released about 20 painted ladies, an orange-and-black monarch-esque specimen.

Regan ordered the special guests from Florida a couple days before the opening. They stayed dormant in envelopes surrounded by ice packs until the big day.

When the envelopes were opened and their wings felt the sun, they very slowly came to life. In the coming months the butterflies will use the rocks placed around the moat to warm their wings.

“The butterflies need to warm up before they can fly,” Regan said. “They get the heat from the rocks.”

The theory behind the design is to fit it into the woodland environment of the botanical gardens, but also to add some color, Regan said.

The southwestern portion of the park is mostly large trees and the new exhibit, situated next to the community vegetable garden, will give the primarily green land some pinks, reds and purples.

The public can sit on tree stumps that Regan and her students situated on the edge of the garden so people can watch the butterflies.

But Regan doesn’t want people stay for hours on end.

“We want to keep it as natural as possible,” she said.

But she added, she wants people to come and relax for a while.

Butterfly garden

When: Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St., Flushing

Tickets: $4 adults; $3 seniors; $2 students. Free hours: Wednesday, 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, 4 to 6 p.m. (718) 886-3800

queensbotanical.org

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