New Orleans Botanical Garden (NOLA BG) is set in City Park, a 1,300-acre stunner; City Park is home to the largest stand of mature live Oak Trees. Beautiful and majestic due to those Oaks, the Garden is home to the Conservatory of the Two Sisters, the New Orleans Historic Train Garden, the Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden and multiple theme gardens with aquatics, roses, native plants, ornamental trees and shrubs and perennials. Originally known as the City Park Rose Garden, the garden opened in 1936 as New Orleans’ first public classical garden. It is one of the few remaining examples of public garden design from the Works Progress Administration and the Art Deco Period left today. NOLA BG’s collections contain over 2,000 varieties of plants from all over the world. Although it rests on a huge plot of land off the Canal Street Car Line, the Garden itself is about 12 acres and includes a tropical conservatory, a water lily pond, formal rose garden, Camellia gardens and more. Scattered throughout are fountains and sculptures by world-renowned artist Enrique Alferez (a New Orleans local). Guided tours and self-tours are always available to the near 300,000 annual visitors here. There is a big focus on education at NOLA BG, and there’s coursework to prove it. For everyone from Kindergartners to seniors, classes exists in different proficiencies too. There is even opportunity for teachers: Teachers can go to New Orleans Botanical Garden and use the facilities as an outdoor classroom for writing, drawing, and teaching about environments and plants. NOLA BG also offers educational tours; students and teachers together can discover the fun and educational experience of a fun natural science tour. And speaking of tours, take a tour through this list before (or while) you visit the New Orleans Botanical Garden; it’s the Top Ten Attractions at NOLA BG list. Use it in lieu of any brochures you might get or even in addition to the tour map you’ll receive upon entry there. It makes a great small resource for you so be sure you check out all the attractions listed here.*
1. Pavilion of the Two Sisters
A centerpiece of the New Orleans Botanical Garden, the Pavilion of the Two Sisters is modeled after a traditional European orangery. With its long banks of arched windows, the Pavilion offers lovely vistas of the Zemurray Azalea and Camellia Garden featuring the Fluteplayer fountain to the east and the original 1930s garden and new Conservatory to the west. The Pavilion may be rented alone or in concert with gardens to either side or with the garden as a whole, accommodating as many at 2,000. With cool slate floors below and a palm frond chandelier above, the Pavilion measures 100 feet long and 60 feet wide.
2. Fall Garden Festival
Visitors to City Park’s Botanical Gardens Fall Garden Festival groove along to multiple bands’ great music, and enjoy marvelous garden art, innovative landscape designs, fresh paintings, great learning opportunities, peculiar plants, and tasty food and drink. About 50-75 exhibitors participate each fall in this popular festival. There are also seminars by famous botanists, landscape architects, designers, horticulturists, plant lovers and Park employees/experts. In addition, Scarecrow Trail, a stroll through community and school created scarecrows, is always delightfully and funny, yet a perfect mix of scary for children and adults. Children are also invited at this time to the Pavilion of the Two Sisters to learn how to create leaf rubbings, plant seeds, to decorate windows and more! This famous weekend event is patronized by thousands in all of Louisiana and nearby areas.
3. Stove House
The stove house was the original greenhouse for the garden and park. It had a boiler for heat so that many plants could be propagated such as Poinsettias and Mums. This structure is now used for our cactus collection.
4. The Dungeons
The dungeons were built slightly below grade and had no heat source, which made these cold frames earn the nickname ‘the dungeons.’ These building now have heat and are used for holding plants that are planted into the garden.
5. Palm Court
The Palm Court contains the majority of the garden’s palm collection. Palms are some of the most primitive of plants; despite the common term, palms are not really trees. Unlike true trees, which grow outward and upward, palms grow solely from the top, unable to heal any wounds on their trunks. This area also contains many varieties of clumping and slow spreading bamboos. The palms and bamboo are inter-planted with ferns, grasses, groundcovers, bromeliads, groundcovers and other exotic plants. This area also serves as the seasonal home of several plants that’re marginally hardy or cold tender.
6. Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden
This garden, in which the first two phases have been completed, provides not only beauty and enjoyment for all visitors but also serves as a natural setting for other Japanese arts such as bonsai, ikebana, and sado (tea ceremony). The garden also provides increased awareness and appreciation of Japanese culture, aesthetics and love of nature among all people in the New Orleans area.
7. Historic New Orleans Train Garden
A visitor and local favorite, the Train Garden features buildings made entirely of botanical materials in a layout approximating the layout of the city itself. As visitors walk on a pathway representing the water surrounding New Orleans, they overlook over 1,300 feet of track carrying streetcars and trains like those that traveled the city in the late 1800s to early 1900s, at 1/22 of their actual size. This is hands-down one of the neatest attractions in any botanical garden. The structures are built to represent actual structures typical of our house types and are organized by neighborhood. Additionally, neighborhood stops along the walkway give brief insight into the history of the neighborhoods and the train or streetcar lines that served them. Check website for train operation times before attending as it may only be on weekends.
8. Lily Pond and Conservatory Rose Beds
At the entrance to the Conservatory of the Two Sisters is the garden’s collection of aquatics. This pond holds a variety of tropical and hardy water lilies and other aquatics. Submerged plants help to keep the water clean while fish eat any mosquito larvae. Each of the plants in the pond is planted in plastic pots raised off the pond’s floor to six to eight inches below the water surface. In the keyhole of the pond is Undine, (1935) a sculpture by Rose Marie Huth. The pond is flanked by four formal rose beds holding several varieties of modern roses.
9. Lord & Taylor Rose Garden
Also called the Parterre, the rose garden is the most formal area in the garden. The rose garden’s clipped Yaupon hedges impart a rigid formality on the roses contained within the beds. The center beds contain several cultivars of modern roses. Old garden roses are planted around the edge of the Parterre. The Parterre is separated from the rest of the garden with a hedge of Japanese Yew, which extends around the Shriever fountain. At the main entrance to the rose garden are the Satyrs on sculptural columns. On the gardens rear East-West axis, which passes through the Parterre, are two small fountains with a central art deco magnolia bud.
10. Zemurray Azalea and Camelia Garden
Completed in 1995, this portion of NOLA BG holds the bulk of the garden’s Azalea, Camellia, And Magnolia collections. Many of the azaleas bloom not only in Spring, but also in Fall and sporadically through the rest of the year, making this a popular place with locals and visitors. The dominant features of this garden are the azalea and camellia garden’s centerpiece, the Flute Player — a painstakingly refurbished fountain containing an Enrique Alferez Sculpture — and the Pavilion of the Two Sisters. Near the Pavilion, the garden was designed formally, gradually becoming informal on the perimeter. The footprint walk around the Azalea and Camellia Garden is embedded with the footprints of special donors to the construction of the Pavilion. *List is based on visitor reviews, blogs, travel and tourism site reviews and member reviews.
New Orleans Botanical Garden
City Park New Orleans, Louisiana