New York Botanical Garden

Japanese Maple at NYBG in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Japanese Maple (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Black Friday, and the weeks before, are often spent indoors shopping for bargains . . . but I have a better idea! November is a month that can grace us with unseasonably mild temperatures and crisp blue skies; in other words, perfect conditions for strolling through a garden.  So, for the folks at the mall waiting in line for a new flat screen: count me out! Instead, color me green and blue, ’cause this girl’s headed for the New York Botanical Garden . . .

Haupt Conservatory in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Haupt Conservatory at NYBG (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

It all began in April of 1891, when the New York State Legislature had the foresight to set aside a section of northern Bronx lands for the sole purpose of creating a public botanic garden.  The commitment of New York City combined with financial help from many prominent locals resulted in a public-private relationship to establish and maintain the New York Botanical Garden we enjoy to this day.  Just celebrating its 125th anniversary, NYBG has so much to offer visitors on the 250 acre site.  Originally designed by Calvert Vaux in 1894, his plans were then formally developed by the Olmstead Brothers Landscape Design Company in the 1920’s.  Many other well known landscape designers had a hand in the creative process as well; such as Beatrix Farrand, Penelope Hobhouse, Thomas Everett and Lynden Miller.  New York Botanical Garden is completely dedicated to preserving and enhancing this precious piece of historical landscape, and you will experience this sentiment the moment you enter the grounds.

Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life at NYBG in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

We started our sunny autumn morning at the Moshulu Gate, and headed toward the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life.  Created by Charles E. Tefft, this sculpture has so much movement it’s impossible to capture it no matter how many images you take (but I did try).  The merman, mermaid and the merhorses have an incredible energy and personality, it is quite breathtaking.  Just steps away was the first of many Manolo Valdes sculptures we would see, sighted beautifully and glistening in the morning sun.  Across the lawn I was awestruck by an established Igiri tree, Idesia polycarpa, which had branches hanging with red viburnum-like berries.  From there, we hung a left and headed down the main tram road, stopping whenever something required closer inspection, which was often.

Red Tailed Hawk Sentry in A Garden For All By Kathy Diemer

Red Tailed Hawk Sentry (photo credit:Kathy Diemer)

My favorite trees, like the sycamore (platanus occidentalis), were strategically placed where they would be seen along the paths and roadways, and their freckled bark and massive bleached limbs stood out dramatically against the muted backdrop as we walked along.  Around the corner, a specimen weeping beech was adorned with a preening adult red tailed hawk nonchalantly looking down on us.  Further along were the Oak Collection’s premier array of ancient, colossal trunks, ranging from China, Japan and the U.S..  There was  a curious tree called the Caucasian wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), the remarkable Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, whose design remains stunning even without the blooms, the Crabappple Collection of trees draped with gold and red fruits, and the hollies-as big as a house-embellished with opulent berries, as well.

Weeping Conifer at NYBG in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Pendulous Conifer (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

The conifer section is the spot where my heart really started racing.  And there’s a lot to get excited about. In the dwarf collection there are an impressive combination of textures, colors, and forms such as the weeper contorted deodar cedar, Cedrus deodara ‘Twisted Growth’.  They have a specimen Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ that’s five times the size of mine, paired with a Picea orientalis ‘Connecticut Turnpike’. In the grown-up conifer collection, the theme remains the same but on a larger scale with even more intrigue.  The landscape is more challenging, with lots of rock and moss included in the design process.  This is the land of dinosaur trees, some with reptilian trunks contorted like serpents, while others have pendulous weeping wings that unfurl over the grounds in a protective mothering illusion.  Still others are more subdued, such as the many blue atlas cedars or the Cunningham lanceolata ‘Glauca’, with long touchable frosty blue needles.  As you depart this area, several weeping hemlocks softly wave goodbye, while across the way there was a ruckus of black squirrels scurrying about amongst a majestic stand of mighty metasequoias, frantically preparing for the winter.

Turkeys passing through in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Turkeys passing through (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

There is a comforting, simplicity to the meandering, windy roads and paths, and you soon understand that they were created to meld with the landscape, not compete against it.  So entranced, we were surprised to find ourselves heading back, but enjoyed a quick glimpse of the grand Haupt Conservatory and a stroll by the ladies border, where white and pink camellias were still in bloom.  While heading down the Garden Way path to snap the last few pictures, two wild turkeys casually strolled by us with children in hot pursuit.  And as we came around the final bend, we looked up to see a trio of brown bats darting about over our heads.  Surely the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Please visit for a listing of year round events and what’s in bloom. ♥

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A Garden for All