Geographically, New York City is divided into five boroughs or districts: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Interestingly, each houses a botanical garden, and deciding which is the best is an exercise we leave to experts.
But for the visitor wanting only to experience the quiet, lush beauty of the extraordinary settings no controversial decision is necessary. Simply visit them all!
Manhattan hosts, of course, Central Park. While not designed as a botanical garden there are nonetheless thousands of flower and tree species on display. Carefully sculpted and landscaped in accordance with Frederick Law Olmstead’s original master plan, the current park has seen a renaissance in recent years and is a must-see destination.
A short subway ride north, next to the world-famous Bronx Zoo, is the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Located on 250 acres of the northern half of Bronx Park there are 16 gardens.
Here the lover of nature can find the country’s largest Victorian greenhouse, along with the International Plant Science Center where botanical research has been ongoing since 1891.
The Enid Haupt Conservatory holds several flower shows and exhibitions while the Ross Conifer Arboretum features the country’s largest collection of century-old pines, spruces, and firs. And be sure not to miss the annual Tulip Festival.
Take the subway back down, all the way to the southern tip of Manhattan, and step onto the Staten Island ferry. Disembark and experience the Staten Island Botanical Garden at 1000 Richmond Terrace.
Founded in 1977, the gardens are home to everything from English perennials to the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden. Chinese Scholar gardens date back to the Ming Dynasty and this one holds a series of pavilions and covered walkways.
Located within the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, the Victorian charm of the English-style garden is a delightful lush companion to the more spare Chinese style.
Take the bus across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or the subway under it to Brooklyn and see the BBG. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden houses a dozen gardens each as unique as Brooklyn itself.
Whether your interest is in the aromatic – the Herb Garden, or you prefer the spare – the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the BBG has something for every plant lover.
Explore in-depth the Shakespeare Garden donated by Henry Folger, founder of the Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. The original dates back to 1925 and, though relocated from the original location, there can be found over 80 plants mentioned in the works of the Bard.
The BBG also contains the Steinhardt Conservatory with a gallery displaying a variety of educational and entertaining works related to the exhibits. The Curator’s Corner offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the art displays are created.
A short bus or subway ride up to Queens offers the visitor another 39 acres of secluded blossoms to refresh the spirit. Free to the over 300,000 visitors arriving annually, the gardens have been a must-see destination since their origin at the 1939 World’s Fair. The Garden relocated to the present site in 1963.
There’s the three-acre Wedding Garden, in true 19th-century Victorian style, and the six-acre Perkins Memorial Rose Garden, one of the nation’s largest. There is even a composting education facility in the Arboretum for blossoming gardeners.
Enjoy all of New York’s Botanical Gardens, rare retreats among the bustle of the capital of the world.
“Koi Pond, Brooklyn Botanical Garden” by Chromium Photography