March 31, 2010

Blooming at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

There are places in Brooklyn that are very close to my heart because they are an integral part of my growing up. One of these is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where I spent many happy hours with my parents and later, by myself or with friends; I still feel that I know the grounds well and that there are pleasant remembrances in so many spots: the Japanese Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, Daffodil Hill, the cherry trees and rose garden.

I got into Brooklyn early enough on Sunday to have a quick stroll through the Garden before the rain began, rain which continued for the next two and a half days, with a blustery rawness in the air that belied the idea of spring. But there were blooms, bright spots of color nestled in greens of grass and leaf and gray of sky, such as the pretty candy striped tulips.

The BBG has a magnificent grouping of magnolia trees, and most were in full bloom, with flowers in whites and pinks emerging from fuzzy pods. While I was wandering through the magnolia plaza, I heard a docent explain that this species is very ancient, many millions of years old; it predated bees, so beetles pollinated the flowers.

Hellebore, another early spring flower, showed its lovely variegated petals. Alongside this variety of pink and green was another with lime green flowers.

There were quite of few of these greenish yellow flowering shrubs scattered about, with flowers that from a distance looked a lot like forsythia, with a similar cheer and brightness. But walking up to the shrub, I saw that the growth habit of the flowers, in long pendulous sprays, was very different from that of the official flower of Brooklyn. They are called Spike Winterhazel.

The greenhouses were a welcome respite from the cold wind outdoors; I walked into the tropical section and took out my camera to photograph some of the large, beautiful ferns, but my camera fogged up from the moist heat. I was able to photograph the Bird of Paradise, which is in a more temperate zone; its horizontal bird-like beak with a crown of spreading orange creates a graphic drama against the simple shapes of dark green leaves.

I also visited one of my favorite rooms, the one containing the Bonsai collection, which years ago inspired me to learn the art of Bonsai. I was very taken with the desert pavilion, and I'll be doing a post on desert plants next. It's wonderful to be able to wander through different climates and see plants from all over the world in a short span of time, a welcome enlargement of my world of nature.


  1. your bird of paradise shot is SOOOO Rousseau!
    welcome back!

  2. So wish I could have taken a wander there and heard your narration - just wonderful Altoon.

  3. Thank you for the shared memory! I, too, spent many hours there with my mother ... it was a favorite and inspiring place.

  4. Thanks for the tour. Mark and I were there only once but it is still a treasured memory. Have slides (!) of all our favorites; but it was fall and not spring, so a very different look. That winter hazel is lovely, but I don't think it's hard here. That must have been wonderful: to visit so often that you really got to know the landscape.

  5. I'm glad you all liked this post on the BBG. It's a lovely place. I wish I could have seen the cherry trees in bloom, but that will be coming later.