Brooklyn’s gardens are located in the heart of busy Brooklyn beside Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Prospect Park . In 1897 the New York State legislature reserved 39 acres for the creation of a botanic garden and in 1910 work on the garden commenced. Today it is a beautiful area of parkland divided into different styles of gardens. The cherry esplanade was obviously not in bloom when we visited, shells looked a bit slimy and worse for wear but they seemed happy puddling about.
The Native Flora Garden exhibits native plants growing in the New York metropolitan area and is a real eye opener. Our Irish native flora is so impoverished it is astonishing to see the rich variety of native plants and great diversity of species. The garden shows plants of the eastern seaboard found in three eco-regions: coastal plain, piedmont, and highland growing in a variety of conditions from rock plants to meadows to bog lands. Plants native to the region include heuchera, tilia, calicarpa, American elms (free from Dutch elm disease) and of course gorgeous maples, oaks and hickory trees. I blushed with shame at my lack of knowledge – there were so many trees and shrubs I didn’t know or recognise. I vow this year to improve my plant identification skills.
The children’s discovery garden is a great idea and really did grab the attention of the pair I was with. Since 1914, children have been growing flowers, vegetables, and herbs and learning first-hand about the natural world here. The garden encourages sustainable gardening practices and community horticulture and conservation. Here, children aged 2 to 17 can plant their own crops and flowers and harvest them under the guidance of garden instructors. Younger children, called KinderGardeners, combine planting, tending, and harvesting with craft making and creative play. The rest of the garden, and others worldwide could copy the method of plant labelling which tells not only the name of the species but its history and usage.
There are countless other gardens in Brooklyn’s botanic garden and you could spend several days exploring it. The ornamental lily pool terrace is particularly nice. When we visited all the water lilies and lotus flowers were in bloom and looked spectacular – especially the lotus flower seed heads which are a flower arrangers favourite. There are also lots of conservatories, and unfortunately time shortage and two little girls with low boredom thresholds meant we couldn’t explore them fully. I will save them for my next visit, I long to see the aquatic house, desert and warm temperate pavilions. I think my next trip will have to be in May when I can see the Magnolias and tree peonies in bloom and walk in the bluebell wood.