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Required Reading: The New York Botanical Garden


Required Reading: The New York Botanical Garden

April 5, 2016

On the 125th anniversary of its creation by the state legislature in 1891, the New York Botanical Garden has issued a handsome volume displaying its many horticultural wonders.  But don’t just buy this book for the pictures.  It also tells the fascinating story of NYBG’s history as well as describing its impressive achievements in education and scientific research.

Photography by Larry Lederman, courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.

192,Designed by the American Renaissance sculptor Charles E. Tefft, the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life is a dramatic composition featuring sea nymphs, seahorses, cherubs, and a startled mermaid and merman. The water falls into two basins of white marble.

Above: Beautiful this garden certainly is.  Modern photographs by Larry Lederman illustrate its loveliness in all the seasons. But what is perhaps not so obvious to the garden’s many visitors is its stature as a repository of botanical knowledge and artifacts and as a leader in the cutting edge study of global biodiversity and climate change.

Page101,66,Japanese dogwoods flower in early June during the first flush of color in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden.

Above: The photographs and descriptions of NYBG’s display gardens, such as the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, are uniquely enhanced in the book by historic photos and paintings, botanic illustrations, and herbarium specimens from its own vast collections.

page 23 & 58,Native Plant Garden,Joe-pye weed and purple milkweed grow along the edge of the Native Plant Garden’s water feature.

Above: Let this book be your guide on a virtual tour of the garden’s many distinctive areas and plant collections: the recently completed native plant garden, the discreetly placed rock garden, the conifer arboretum. Learn where and when to overdose on lilacs, azaleas, peonies, and crabapple blossoms in spectacular full bloom.

page 28,The Perennial Garden is a masterpiece of color, texture, and fragrance.

Above: If you are in need of some inspiration in your own garden, turn to the chapter “A Flowery Tapestry: Gardens and Borders” and read how renowned designer Lynden B. Miller creates rooms in the Perennial Garden that feature bold color combinations. Or learn which plants famed Dutch designer Piet Oudolf chose for the Seasonal Walk.

131, Standing next to the iron fence on the terrace of the Goldman Stone Mill, visitors are treated to a magnificent view of the Bronx River gorge.

Above: While many parts of NYBG are the creations of landscape designers it is also home to the largest remaining tract of native Northeastern forest left in New York City.  The 50-acre Thain Family Forest, once the private preserve of the tobacco manufacturing Lorillard family, lies on both sides of the Bronx River and offers city dwellers a rare taste of prehistoric wildness.

page142, An old quarry provides a dramatic backdrop for this singular setting in the Azalea Garden.

Above: Unlike Central Park, which owes its varied topography to radical earth moving techniques, the New York Botanical Garden was created using the natural configurations of its site.

First Board of Managers breaking ground on Library 1897

Above: Historic image courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.

Some changes have been made over the years, but the rolling lay of the land, its rocky outcroppings, and many small streams and brooks existed long before the garden was created.

Ariel view of the Conservatory in early Spring

Above: As the book makes clear, architecture is an important feature of the garden and not just because of its iconic 1902 Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. This glorious glasshouse covers an entire acre of plants and is the site of many of the garden’s noted special events such as the annual orchid show, currently on view.

193,The dome of the Library building glows gold during an early autumn sunset

Above:  Other historic structures include the massive 1901 Beaux-Arts Library as well as several stone bridges constructed across the Bronx River in the early 1900’s. The earliest extant remnant of the Lorillard period is the Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill,  a recently restored pre-Civil War building originally used to manufacture snuff.

181, Butterflies, a monumental work by Manolo Valdés, graced the front lawn of the Library building in 2012 .

Above: At 250 acres the New York Botanical Garden is way too big to thoroughly explore in one or even several visits.  This book, a revised and updated edition of the 2006 version, is no substitute for seeing the garden in person, but it will enrich your experience when you go. Hopefully, that will be soon.

164, Star and saucer magnolias explode into bloom in early spring.

Above: It’s spring, people.  NYBG, a visual feast all year round, is on fire now. Don’t miss it.


The New York Botanical Garden is $55 on Amazon.com.

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