Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (BBG) was an old downtown ash and trash heap; it sat, untouched, reeking for years. Well thankfully for Brooklynytes, it’s since been magically transformed into a top-notch attraction in the heart of the borough. BBG is a delightful place; since it’s transformation it’s come to represent the very best in both urban gardening and horticultural display.
A hot spot for proposals and weddings, the gardens and their 52 acres of magnificent flora and fauna provide the perfect romantic background; it’s actually an idyllic setting for any event, large or small, you want to consider: birthday bashes, Mother’s Day fetes, holiday celebrations, personal dates and more!
The environment in which Brooklyn Botanic Garden operates is shifting dramatically, which requires a response unprecedented in the Garden’s history. The need for a place of beauty, inspiration and environmental education is vital in a borough that is more densely developed and culturally diverse than ever before.
In response, BBG is developing over four acres of new and expanded gardens as well as new and enhanced facilities to welcome and orient the Garden’s rapidly growing number of visitors (up over 30 percent in five years). This ambitious suite of re-imagined gardens, facilities, and programs has been shaped by contemporary environmental realities and grows out of BBG’s commitment to modeling and interpreting sustainable, ecologically sound practices. BBG is also expanding its longstanding commitment to education both in the Garden and in the community—enhancing its plant collection and creating new horticulture initiatives for children, families, and community gardeners. The Centennial includes over ten projects, and encompass everything from an expanded Native Flora Garden and a new Woodland Garden to the brand new visitor gates and a new convenient cafe location on the eastern portion of the landscape.
So without further ado, here’s the list you’ve been reading for; it’s the Fan Favorites at Brooklyn Botanic Garden! Be sure you check out these attractions at the famous Garden next time you visit.
1. Shakespeare Garden
In the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare, nature is interwoven with his amazing literary genius, providing glimpses into the history and lifestyles of those thriving during the Elizabethan Age. Thus, familiar flowers and herbs were used to develop a mood, set the stage and convey the essence of a moral or idea. This charming garden was cultivated in English cottage-garden style and exhibits plants mentioned in the famous historian’s poems and plays. Over 80 of the plants mentioned in the works of Shakespeare grow here, with spring bulbs being the first to appear as the winter wanes. Common or Shakespearean names, the botanical name, references for relevant quotations and, in some cases, even a graphic representation of the specific plant, are displayed on labels.
2. Tropical Pavilion
Perhaps the first American botanic garden to organize its tropical forest display in non-traditional terms — those of economic uses of plants — BBG continues the tradition here in the Tropical Pavilion. Plants are arranged to represent the categories: food, fragrance, industry, and medicine, with ornamental plants spotted throughout the house. Also emphasized in the Tropical Pavilion is the importance of conservation. In particular, the continued destruction of tropical forests results in the loss of potentially valuable plants that could provide food or medicines. The Tropical Pavilion is 6,000-square-feet under a glass ceiling! It’s the largest in the conservatory complex and soars to 65 feet tall to accommodate the amazing trees swaying within. The main tropical regions of the world are represented here: the Amazon basin, African rainforest, and tropical eastern Asia.
3. Cherry Esplanade and Cherry Walk
Cherry Walk was first planted in 1921 and quickly became known as one of the finest cherry blossom viewing sites outside of the many in Japan! The Cherry Walk is a gently meandering path, east of between Cherry Esplanade and behind the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. This pathway provides a selection of some of the 42 varieties of Ornamental flowering cherries in the garden, which makes this one of the foremost cherry viewing sites outside of Japan; additionally, 76 double-flowered Prunus ‘Kazan’ trees line the Cherry Esplanade and create a dazzling spring display! The Cherry Esplanade is a broad green field bordered by two all?es of the dazzling Prunus ‘Kanzan’. These double-flowering cherries typically bloom at the end of April and are a highlight of the Garden’s annual cherry blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri, which is held at the Cherry Esplanade and Walk annually.
4. Children’s Garden
Since 1914, children have been growing flowers, plants & vegetables while learning firsthand about the ordinary world in BBG’s Children’s Garden. With a focus on greening the urban environment through education and sustainable practices, BBG encourages young people to be participants in community conservation. Here at the Children’s Garden, children ages two to 17 can plant their own crops and flowers and harvest them in the fall under the guidance of garden instructors. Kindergarteners also combine planting, tending, and harvesting with craft-making and creative play to make it tickle more than one sense. With everything from sunflowers to pumpkins for kids to grow, they learn and are encouraged to protect their natural environments in all classes and in the Garden at BBG. There’s always something happening in the Children’s Garden, whether a tour or class, no matter the season.
5. CV Starr Bonsai Museum
The extensive bonsai collection has long been considered one of the finest in the entire world! The collection’s near 350 trees comprise the second oldest collection in the US and one of the largest on public display outside Japan, with as many as 30 specimens on exhibit at any given time. Cold-temperate trees form the core of the collection, which also includes indoor trees that are tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean, or warm-temperate in origin. BBG’s Bonsai Museum displays the Garden’s bonsai in a Japanese-style architectural setting. There is a stylized veranda complete with “tokonoma,” or alcove, that looks out onto the entire exhibit. Text panels introduce the history of bonsai and explain each of the plants’ culture and care.
6. Lily Pool Terrace
Nearly 100 varieties of robust tropical water lilies, blended with elegant sacred lotuses, and other aquatic plants offer a dazzling summer display on Lily Pool Terrace. Magnificent year-round, visitors enjoy the serene reflecting pools, fountains, and border gardens, which are also popular with local wildlife such as colorful carp, ducks, and the occasional visiting Heron. An assorted and attractive collection of container-grown aquatic lilies is always displayed seasonally.
7. Bluebell Wood
Resplendent in beauty, over 45,000 bluebells are planted under a gorgeous stand of multiple trees, oak, birch, and beech included, just south of the stunning Cherry Esplanade. In May, the bluebells burst into flower and create an enchanting woodland display.
8. Daffodil Hill
Thousands of “trumpet daffodils” make over the slope of a hill into a mass of blazing yellows and gold in late March/early April. Several varieties are planted, most notably Narcissus ‘Spellbinder’ which displays bright yellow and white blooms as well as Narcissus ‘King Alfred’, the largest of all the trumpet daffodils.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225