The New York Botanical Garden | New York

Posted by on December 2, 2009

A day trip you’ve heard about before from me is the easy drive down to the New York Botanical Garden.

It may sound like a great exertion at the wrong time of the year. However let me tell you that the gardens are just gearing up for the holidays – so now is the time to plan to go.

We observed several workmen trimming three huge Christmas trees with giant red and gold balls, and draping them with tinsel.  They were using a huge crane to get to the top, and, as you can imagine, there were many youngsters of all sizes and ages wishing they could help.

The Holiday Train Show opens on November 21, and will be in place until January 10.

This is a big event in the New York City Christmas traditions repertoire, so I suggest getting on line and getting tickets early.

The Train Show was being readied when I was visiting recently to see the utterly phenomenal KIKU exhibit – Japanese chrysanthemums grown and displayed in the most incredible ways.  The precision with which these mums have to be pruned and trained is mindboggling.  It too is a must see, but sadly will be ended by the time you read this.

For me the Botanical Gardens are wonderful at almost any time of year, even if you’re just going shopping. (about that, more later.)  The autumn colors are so restful, and the scattered leaves in a rainbow of colors make bright focal points for the eyes.  Everywhere you look there is a “photo op” and everywhere there are families enjoying this great outdoor space.  It appears that lots of New Yorkers come up by subway to enjoy this treasure. There’s a subway stop right AT the gardens.For those of us lucky enough to live way north of the gardens, up here in the country, it is still easily reachable.  The drive is just about an hour and 15 minutes, an easy drive down the Taconic and then the Bronx River Parkway, from which it is minutes to the gardens.

We saw the mums that were displayed in the courtyard of the giant Enid Haupt conservatory.  I must confess that I stopped on the way to check out the gift shop, so I could gauge how much time I’d need at the end of the day to pick up a few gifts.

After that show, and our usual walk around the grounds, we stopped for a late lunch at the cafeteria. (There is a pleasant coffee shop right at the entrance as well as the cafeteria, which is called the Garden Café.) The food is really quite good for its type, no doubt the result of being done by the well-known caterer, Abigail Kirsch of Tarrytown.  Since it was a bit chilly, we enjoyed a bowl of much-better-than-average chili con carne.

Back to the Train Show, which is held in the aforementioned conservatory:  there are 140 architectural reproductions of New York landmarks in the Garden’s collection, and they were being put in place very carefully.  Among the annual favorites are the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and even the Little Red Lighthouse.  This year there are at least two new buildings:  The original Pennsylvania Station, and Brooks Brothers flagship store, located at 346 Madison Avenue. (Brooks Bros. is one of the sponsors, along with Bank of America, and some private foundations.)

Needless to say, there are trains galore in this show, from steam engines to modern freight trains, complete with waterfalls and mountains.

As you might expect, there are special events that coincide with the Train Show, including a puppet theater presentation of The Little Engine That Could, and apparently Thomas the Tank engine will be around for photos!

I suggest you get on the web site where you can even order and print out your tickets for the show, and find out more of the exciting details.

It is heartwarming to see how much people of all ages use this lovely garden space. The gardens are varied in their appeal, beautifully maintained, even in the midst of a major city.  All the workers are pleasant and seem very happy.  Who wouldn’t be, working in such a place?

The summer Greenmarket was having its final day of the year when we were there, complete with Cider pressing and tasting, cooking demonstrations with fresh market produce, demonstrations of composting, and a Meet the Farmer hour.

Last but not least, the garden shop is a treasure trove of gifts to delight everyone on your Christmas list.  I have to say that I have rarely seen so many unique gifts (not seen in other museum and garden shops) available at very decent prices.  I managed to collect several distinctive gifts in a hurry, having done a quick run-through as we entered.  I cannot unfortunately go in to much detail, as I hope many of my friends will read this column.  Suffice it to say, I had a very good time matching items to friends, which is the real fun of gift buying and giving.

The wonderful Tiffany sponsored Orchid Show is coming in February (to lighten up your winter,) and a show about Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers, is coming next April.

There is much to behold and enjoy here in the Botanical Garden, in the middle of the Bronx, but so easy to get to.  It’s another New York City surprise. Go now, before the holidays are upon you, you will not be disappointed.

published in Northern Dutchess News, December 2, 2009

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