Saturday, March 19, 2011

NY Botanical Garden: Metro North to Botanical Garden (Bronx)

Yesterday reached an amazing 71 degrees in NYC, and it was the perfect day to take advantage and go to the New York Botanical Garden.  The trip is and easy 20 minutes from Grand Central via the Harlem Line on Metro North (offpeak fares are currently $5.75 each way).  The Botanical Garden Station is just across the street.  It could not be more simple.

As you enter the Mosholu Gate and look to the left, there are lines of tulip trees leading up to the Mertz Library and Ross Gallery (see top photo).  Twice a year they have special exhibits and currently they have Hirschfeld's Broadway Scrapbook, which includes original caricatures of Broadway characters.  Throughout the garden in this area, park benches line walkways, and one can spend a pleasant hour or two just roaming the over 250 acres of the gardens (but please note: strollers, bicycles, and dogs are not permitted).

I went to the NY Botanical Garden especially for the annual Orchid Show (March 5-April 24), which is exhibited in the beautiful Victorian-style Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (see above right).  Here you show your admission ticket ($20 for adults; but currently there are $13.50 tickets available on to gain entry to an amazing array of flowers, cacti, and plants of all types.  This year, the orchids are amassed to form extravagant displays reminiscent of great Broadway theaters (see the Walter Kerr Theater-inspired proscenium arch at left) with music from various Broadway shows playing in the background.  Words will not do the exhibit justice, so I have just included photos of some of the spectacular displays to hopefully inspire you to visit the gardens too.

I would also recommend taking the narrated tram tour of the gardens; you cover a lot of ground and get a great overview of the physical gardens, their future plans and their history.  You can get on and off the tram at various stops, but the tour starts every 15 minutes by the reflecting pool just beyond the lines of cherry trees and the gift shop at the main entrance.  The ride covers the main highlights of the gardens beyond the conservatory and points out a good sampling of the over 1 million species (see the Jade Vine from the Philippines below) at the gardens.  It was great to see and hear about the 200 year old trees and original first cut forests from when the early settlers came to the New Amsterdam (now NY) area.  The history of the gardens (originally conceived as a copy of London's Kew Gardens) is really interesting, and I was heartened by all of the study, preservation and research that goes on at the gardens.

If you want a respite from the hustle and bustle of the City, the New York Botanical Garden is a great choice (and perhaps more educational -- most of the plant life is labeled -- than Central Park).  If you like orchids, please make an effort to go (although I would recommend waiting until just before the show ends so that you could see the cherry and magnolia trees in bloom).  Enjoy!

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