The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a 52-acre sanctuary located next to the Brooklyn Museum and adjacent to Prospect Park in New York City’s Brooklyn borough. Founded in 1910, this urban nature sanctuary is comprised of several specialty gardens and features more than 10,000 different types of plants.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has something different blooming every month of the year so each visit is a new experience. See the trumpet daffodils on Daffodil Hill in March, or the 45,000 bluebells of Bluebell Wood in May. In early summer, thousands of roses are at their peak in the Cranford Rose Garden. Opened in 1928, this exquisite rose garden contains 1,200 varieties of roses on one acre of land. A bronze statue —“Roses of Yesterday” by Harriet W. Frishmuth—of a young woman with a sundial in her left hand and roses in her right welcomes visitors to the Rose Garden Pavilion.
Just beyond the Eastern Parkway Gate entrance is the Osborne Garden, an Italian-style formal garden. This northern most portion of the BBG is situated between Mount Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum.
Purple wisteria adorns the pergolas surrounding the 30,000-square-foot lawn, which offers an array of flowers, fluted columns and a fountain. Steps on the south end of the three-acre garden lead down to the fragrant Lilac Collection. Spring visitors to the Louisa Clark Spencer Lilac Collection can enjoy 150 specimens of the heavenly-scented flower in full bloom which peak in April and May.
A second entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—the Parking Lot Gate on Washington Avenue the other side of the Brooklyn Museum from the Eastern Parkway Gate—brings you first past a small herb garden then into the famous Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. This was the first Japanese garden to be created in an American public garden although the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park—first developed as the Japanese village at the 1894 California Midwinter Exposition—is older. The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden in Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden was built in 1914 and 1915 by Japanese landscape designer Takeo Shiota who likened a Japanese garden to “a painting of a landscape produced on the ground. The garden features a pond, waterfall, wooden bridges, stone lanterns and viewing platform. Enjoy Shiota’s masterpiece from the viewing pavilion, and expect to see turtles, Koi and ducks swimming in the water below.
After walking the grounds, many visitors choose to relax on Cherry Esplanade, a field with 76 cherry trees and the perfect placeto read a book or just take a nap. Every spring the Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) with Taiko Drumming, Japanese folk dance, and Japanese craft demonstrations. An elevated and well shaded trail, lined with park benches, traverses the north end of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden providing views of the Cranford Rose Garden and Cherry Esplanade while connecting the Osborne Garden with the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is also proud to be the home of the first garden in the country designed for the sight-impaired. In the Fragrance Garden, visitors can touch and smell the plants which are identified by Braille plaques mounted on the metal railing. Visitors can experience the scents of lemon verbena, lavender and sage and feel textured plants such as curly mint and cinnamon fern. The Fragrance Garden is divided into four themes: Plants for Touch, Plants with Scented Leaves, Fragrant Flowers, and Kitchen Herbs.
The Shakespeare Garden is an English cottage-garden exhibiting plants referred to in Shakespeare’s works. Nearby, is the shady Celebrity Path—a series of stepping stones inscribed with the names of famous Brooklynites such as Barbara Streisand, Walt Whitman, Harry Houdini, Woody and Arlo Gutherie and Shelly Winters.
Specialty gardens on the east (Flatbush Avenue) side of the BBG include the Native Flora Garden to the north near the Rose Garden and a Rock Garden midway between it and the Flatbush Avenue Gate at the south end of the garden. The Native Flora Garden covers some two acres and is divided into eight geographical zones. It contains native plants found within a 100-mile radius of New York City.
The plant communities represented are boarder mound, bog, deciduous woodland, dry meadow, kettle pond, limestone ledge, pine barrens and wet meadow and stream.
The first rock garden of considerable size in an American botanic garden, BBG’s Rock Garden is a boulder-strewn slope featuring microclimates and plants suited to growing in small places or difficult areas such as mountaintops.
Many of the plants are drought-tolerant though there is a small stream and waterfall in the garden. There are also large shrubs and trees which shade the garden and provide a backdrop for the smaller plants.
Entering the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from the Flatbush Avenue Gate—across the street from the Children’s Corner entrance to Prospect Park—you first encounter the Discovery Garden next to the Children’s Garden. Young children can learn about the world of plants in the Discovery Garden. 800 children a year plant, tend and harvest in the Children’s Garden. It was the first established and is the oldest continuously operating garden of its kind.
A series of buildings which include the Visitor Center, the Gardener’s Resource Center, Terrace Café and gift shops are near the 1000 Washington Avenue entrance to the BBG. The Visitor Center is staffed by volunteers who provide information on garden history, programs, events and what is currently blooming. The BBG Gardener’s Resource Center provides reference services to both home gardeners and the professional horticultural community.
Next to the Judith D. Zuk Magnolia Plaza in front of the Visitor Center, Lily Pool Terrace consists of two nearly mirror image large rectangular pools separated by the Jenkins Fountain which is centered in a 24 foot diameter pool containing container grown aquatic plants.
The north end of the larger pool mimics the semi-circular shape of a forth small pool—known as the Lion’s Head Pool—which is at the far north end of Lily Pool Terrace. Lily Pool Terrace pools contain hardy water-lilies (small leaves, flowers on the surface), tropical lilies (larger leaves, flowers above the water) and sacred lotuses (sacred in the Buddhist religion—plants stand well above the water). Lily Pool Terrace runs nearly north/south in front of the Palm House—part of the Steinhardt Conservatory—and is bordered on the west by a mixed perennial boarder and by an annual border on the east.
Hours and admission prices vary depending on visitor age, day and season.
by Andrea M. Meek