Ok, ok. Technically we can call this a city spot, but the New York Botanical Garden is a little slice of horticultural heaven that feels nothing like the Big Apple. The establishment of this garden, research and educational center was first inspired by a Columbia University botanist's trip to London's Kew Gardens in the late 19th century. He was swept up in the expansive civic movement of his time—which basically means he just had to bring some of that magic back to American soil to show the world that the United States could boast picturesque rolling landscapes and internationally recognized plant science laboratories, too.
Having lived on either side of the New York Botanical Garden over the last five years, first in the city and now in the Hudson Valley, I've noticed that I've begun to develop a relationship with a place that feels, well, almost irresistible. I keep going back—I visit these gardens in almost every season of every year. I don't think I can say the same about any other New York cultural institution. It's that good.
A typical year looks something like this...
Ask me again in July but I can't romanticize the joys of Winter yet. (Too soon!) But winter at the gardens is a bit of a happening. The annual Orchid Show in the conservatory is an outrageous display of lush and vivid blooms that truly transports one from the woes of winter. (Kudos to the scientists and preparators that make this magic happen. As a former registrar at an art museum, the idea of being on the receiving end of a live traveling exhibition is almost panic-inducing.)
I don't know about you, but any place that boasts a map locale of "Daffodil Valley" is a winner in my book.
I had the luxury of touring the Peggy Rockefeller Rose garden one summer with a Rockefeller family historian who happened to be steeped in the art of landscape gardening. I left with the understanding that if I were to ever get around to planting a rose it would be of the prolific and difficult-to-murder Knock-Out variety.
If you find yourself visiting the garden on a crisp October afternoon, it's pretty much a guarantee that you'll experience the joy of one of those Mr. Rogers days (when you're just so happy to be alive).
- Kids aren't allowed on the grass! As a parent of a toddler, this is almost mind-blowing. There is however, an entire children's section, including an indoor crafting and science station that is open year round.
- Slippery rotating hot dogs are for Children's Museums. The NYBG cafe food is really, really good.
- Grounds admission is free to everyone all day on Wednesdays.
- On Wednesdays in the summer months, a greenmarket of locally grown food pops-up near the Mosholu Gate entrance.
- Keep an eye out for street parking—we always seem to luck out. Otherwise parking is $12.
- The Bronx's Arthur Avenue (an authentic version of today's Little Italy) is a skip away.
Photos by Eugene Pitts (orchid photos and the last two spring photos) and Rebecca Pitts.