Bountiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden (a 300 pound blooming gift included)

After working all week in Manhattan, spending time in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden feels like a hiatus. Flush with ponds, trees, and plants, it’s hard to picture the garden’s resplendent 52 acres as a onetime wasteland. Four busy roads surround the  perimeter, but you wouldn’t know it as the green interior is so peaceful. Whether it’s a case of thoughtful design or of a garden’s inherent nature, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s the combination.

Wintry Outlines

Bridges and walkways

Rugged up Garden visitors

Hailing from landscape designer royalty, Brothers Frederick Jr. and John Charles Olmsted (sons of Central Park and Prospect Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted) drafted plans for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, whose ultimate execution opened to the public in 1911. From 1912 until 1945, together with landscape architect, Harold Caparn, the site further developed into the artistic and educational facility it is today.

In spring and summer, the Garden is practically made for dozing — voluminous oaks, elms, and ginkoes provide copious amounts of shade. This is also when the pink cherry blossom trees are in bloom and the rose gardens spread their heady scent.

In the cooler months, the garden exhibits a different kind of beauty.

Stick trees

The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, designed by Takeo Shiota in 1915, feels serene in spite of the giant attention-seeking Koi fish that wade around the pond, occasionally breaking the water’s surface with mouths agape, as if to say, “Feed me.”

Japanese Garden

A glimpse of the Torii, or gateway

Enjoying the serenity on the viewing platform

The Shakespeare Garden exhibits more than 80 plants mentioned in the playwright/poet’s works.

Shakespeare Garden

A plaque dedication on a seat…

… in Shakespeare Garden

The nearby Celebrity Walk, inaugurated in 1985, celebrates those “who where born or flourished in Brooklyn, and whose talents and significant achievements enhance the Borough’s reputation throughout the world.”  Paved to look like a checkerboard, the walkway features ‘leaf dedications’ that honour Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Marisa Tomei, Arthur Miller, Mel Brooks, among others. I found it the perfect excuse to warm up with hopscotch.

Celebrity Walk

A montage of dedications

Further on, Patrick Dougherty’s, ‘Natural History’ – an installation of woody sculptures that look like mammoths – has drawn visitors ever since the Gardens’ 100th anniversary in August 2010. Its whimsy beautifully complements the garden’s winter blueprint. While I was exploring, the animator-director Tim Burton came to mind.

Natural History installation

Amongst the ‘mammoths’

This winter, the garden’s biggest highlight is displayed in the Steinhardt Conservatory…

Aquatic House entrance

A potted overhang

Beautiful orchids

…where a 300-pound Tiger Orchid is showing off its blooms for the third time in 13 years. The beauty is not only in the orchid’s grandeur, but in its blooming sprays. “The tiger bloom is a reluctant bloomer even in its habitat (Southeast Asia)- only once every two to four years – and flowering in cultivation. Outside the tropics, is a special event,” says the nameplate.

300-pound hanging Tiger Orchid

Tiger Orchid blooms

Tiger Orchid, reflected

A favourite spot of mine is the Conservatory’s C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum, for the calm induced by its elegantly crafted miniature trees.

“When I design each individual tree, I try to communicate the spirit of that tree and, hopefully, evoke the imagery of a special, natural environment,” ~curator Julian Velasco

Bonsai: Juniperus Chinensis var. Sargentii

Balanced bonsais

Scaled-down landscape

A fun-see must-see: Now through February 26, 2012, the Terrarium features exquisite plant art under glass curated by Jennifer Williams. Surrounding it are hanging art works by Jae Hi Ahn that ‘re-imagine nature’. The exhibit, on show in the lower level of the Conservatory, proves size does not matter.

Terrarium landscapes by Jennifer Williams: miniature plant art under glass

Jae Hi Ahn’s art installation: ‘Pink Series’

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden attracts up to 900,000 visitors every year. Between the months of November and March, the Garden provides free admission during Winter Weekdays (until March 11, 2012). Go see the Tiger Orchid at the Aquatic House — it is 300 pounds worth of gold! See

Fudo Bonsai Tree: “As a conservative estimate of its age, arrived at by counting its annual growth rings, Fudo lived some 800 years.” McCormack Bonsai Collection

Twilight at the Steinhardt Conservatory


40 thoughts on “Bountiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden (a 300 pound blooming gift included)

  1. Oh wow, it’s looks so tranquil, as if you could spend the whole day sitting in the shadow of trees feeling the breeze through your hair. It’s always amazing to think that an oasis like this exists inside a mayor city…but they do, which is brilliant.

  2. I love botanical gardens and always try to visit one in each new city I visit – provided one exists. Thanks for this tour – will definitely check it out the next time I find myself in NYC.

    • Thanks Rebecca – I am so glad the post inspired you to visit. It is such a manageable size and you can end up staying a few hours given the various exhibits and installations. Where are you based? I am a big fan of the Botanical Gardens in my hometown of Sydney too!

    • Thanks Jenny! I have to say, it was hard to get me out of the Aquatic Room (that houses the orchids) and the Bonsai Museum. They are also my favourite spaces in the Garden. I am not sure about the orchid and it’s rare appearance? I cannot believe it is 300 pounds!

    • I love nature too though I think that the space is much more ‘usable’ and appreciated now, especially as it is an educational facility as well as a garden. I understand your point. Thanks for checking out the post!

  3. What a wonderful tour. Many thanks indeed. I took your advice & looked for the Tiger Orchids. They are awesome. A wonderful composition. You took some wonderful shots & really captured the atmosphere. I really felt that I was walking around as well. Well done. 🙂

  4. some great shots here, especially where you have cropped in and captured the detail….on beautiful orchids and a plaque…

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