Heading Indoors to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Conservatories

The weather’s terrible in New York City today (in fact, I’m home writing this because the university closed for the day), and this winter weather is making me long for spring. I thought I would take us somewhere warm, with flowers and green plants – but where should we go? How about the conservatories at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden? We can travel to multiple climate zones in a single afternoon! I’ve written about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Bonsai Museum previously (you’ll find it here), but there are several other indoor garden spaces nearby.

As soon as we enter the conservatory complex, things are looking promising. We come across this sculpture suspended from the ceiling, made entirely of botanical materials. Doesn’t it look intriguing? The sculpture, titled Windfall, is by artist Shayne Dark. It was created using apple wood root balls and aircraft cable.

Let’s head downstairs to the conservatory entrances. First, there’s the Warm Temperate Pavilion. What geographic areas are located in warm temperate regions? The botanic garden’s website includes this list: “the Mediterranean basin; South Africa; Australia; New Zealand; Eastern Asia; western coastal regions of North America (mainly California); and western coastal regions of South America (mainly Chile).” The entrance to the pavilion makes me feel like we are exiting a cave and going back into the light.

Here are a few of the plants and flowers we spy as we stroll through the Warm Temperate Pavilion.

Next stop: the Tropical Pavilion. The Tropical Pavilion includes representative plant life from the Amazon basin in South America, as well as tropical areas of Africa and eastern Asia.

The Desert Pavilion has interesting cactus specimens – some I’ve never seen before.

Finally, let’s step into the Aquatic House, which is also home to the botanic garden’s orchids.

It might be a snowy, icy, windy day outside, but our tour of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Conservatory has me feeling much warmer! I hope you are staying warm as well.

The Conservatories, as well as the rest of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, are open all year around. If you’d like to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden yourself, you’ll find directions at the end of a previous post I wrote about the Garden, found here.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Bonsai Museum

During the cold winter months, you might not usually think of visiting a botanical garden. But the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum (as well as other indoor conservatories) make this garden a perfect place to visit on a cold, blustery day. What makes the Bonsai Museum so special is that it’s home to a collection of approximately 350 trees – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s website states that it is “one of the finest in the world.” Most of these trees are not on exhibit at the same time; instead, curators rotate trees from the collection in and out of the modern and light indoor verandah.

I last went in late fall on a windy day, and the exhibition included both evergreen and deciduous trees. Here are some of my favorites, which all posed for photos. I particularly like the architectural effect of the trees that are almost stripped bare of leaves. They cast some great shadows as well!

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One of the great things about the Bonsai Museum is that different trees are on display throughout the year. Who knows what you might find when you visit! You’ll find the directions to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at the end of a previous post I wrote about the Garden, found here.

Meandering through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Most visitors to New York City associate the city with hustle and bustle – honking yellow taxis, millions of people crowding sidewalks and tourist attractions, an overload of sensory experiences. Those things certainly exist here, but New Yorkers also know that there are places to get some sunshine and take a relaxing, quiet walk. One favorite is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, located on the edge of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Wanting to get outside and do some walking after several days of sitting at my desk, I recently explored the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s outdoor gardens. Of course, I chose one of the hottest days of the summer, over 90° F (almost 33° C). It was definitely quite warm, but the nice thing about going to a botanical garden is there is plenty of shade scattered throughout the grounds. And it was still a lovely day, with much to see and photograph throughout the gardens.

I found a variety of flowers blooming during my walk.

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Nearby was this interesting insect house, constructed from sections of tree limbs and twigs.

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There were also the delicate lilies at the Lily Pool Terrace.

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The pond also hosts these lovely lotus flowers.

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At the middle of the Lily Pool Terrace is the fountain seen in the corner of this photo.

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Visitors will also find the conservatory building nearby, as well as the beautiful glass Palm House, which now functions as a special event venue.

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One of the things I love about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is its invitation to interact with the plants, as this photo demonstrates.

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There is also a lovely children’s garden, more than 100 years old, where thousands of city children have learned how to grow flowers and vegetables over the years. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden still offers classes for children from 2 to 17 years old. This photo shows the Frances M. Miner Children’s House, which holds children’s garden tools. The building’s namesake taught children’s gardening classes for more than 40 years, from 1930 to 1973.

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There are a number of other delightful gardens as well. I discovered the Fragrance Garden, which the sign described as the first garden in the United States to be designed specifically for visually impaired visitors. The flowers and herbs in this garden were chosen for their scents, textures, and the shapes of the leaves. Many plants have small identification signs in braille, and visitors are encouraged to gently touch the plants to fully enjoy them. The flowers’ scents were heavenly.

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Next door, I found the Shakespeare Garden, home to various plants, herbs, flowers, and trees mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. Periodically, visitors may spy small signs with Shakespearean quotes about the plants.

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The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden was a lovely, peaceful place to spend some time. The sign at its entrance stated that the garden was designed by landscape designer Takeo Shiota and first opened to the public in 1915.

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In the Spring, these Japanese cherry trees plays host to the popular Cherry Blossom Festival, Sakura Matsuri, but mid-summer it’s a quiet grove, lined with shaded benches perfect for reading a book, eating a picnic lunch, or just enjoying the leaves waving in the breeze.

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Finally, I toured the Cranford Rose Garden, with more than 1,000 different varieties of roses. (The sign states it is one of the largest rose collections in North America.) Although the rose garden’s peak season is in May and June, I still found some gorgeous flowers.

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Want to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden yourself? The garden is lovely all year long, with new things to see as the seasons pass. The garden’s website even has a section showing what plants are currently in bloom, if you are interested in checking it out before your visit. You can find the “Plants in Bloom” here.

To get to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden by public transportation, take the B train (only on weekdays) or Q train to the Prospect Park station, the 2 or 3 train to the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum stop (I’ve previously written about the art at that station here), or the 4 or 5 train to Franklin Avenue. Those who wish to drive to the garden can find pay parking at 900 Washington Avenue. (Be aware that parking lots may fill to capacity when special events are going on in the area.) The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has three entrances: 455 Flatbush Avenue, 990 Washington Avenue, or 150 Eastern Parkway.

(Although it isn’t Monday, I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. If you haven’t checked out her blog before, I recommend it!)