When you live in one of the world’s largest cities, being able to spend the day wandering around wide open spaces filled with plants and wildlife is a luxury. New Yorkers are lucky. One of the world’s largest botanical gardens is just a short ride away. With its 250 acres, 50 gardens and 50 acres of native forest, you can spend hours exploring the grounds in every season of the year.
Visit in the spring, and you will find fields of tulips and hyacinths, magnolia trees and dogwood. In the summer, the shady, well-manicured gardens provide respite from the heat of the city; in the fall, the gardens become a canvas of red, orange, yellow of every hue as the leaves change. In the winter, snow makes the area a winter wonderland, while inside the Conservatory, the annual holiday train show attracts visitors of all ages. Later, in February, the annual orchid show fills the building with layers and layers of colorful tropical flowers.
Special exhibits provide added attractions. Visit through May 2013 to see the Monumental sculptures by Spanish artist, Manolo Valdes. Seven bronze, aluminum and Cor-ten steel statues are scattered around the gardens. They are truly massive — some as much as 17 feet high and 50 feet wide, weighing 20 tons. The centerpiece of each is the delicate face of a woman surrounded by floating headdresses reflecting nature — butterflies, ferns, leaves.
The first statue, “Guiomar” immediately to the left inside the entrance, has a woman’s face peering out from a mass of red metal ferns, which replicate those found throughout the gardens. In Spanish, Guiomar is a girl’s name said to mean “famous in battle.” Further along, in the middle of the reflecting pool is “Ivy.” The 15-foot all-aluminum structure of a woman’s face surrounded by palm fronds is mirrored perfectly in the water where orange and yellow leaves provide nature’s autumn accent to the twisting palms. A short walk away, up a slight incline and cradled amongst the trees, sits “Fiore” a 17-foot high Cor-ten steel and bronze sculpture with oak and maple leaves surrounding a woman’s face.
The largest statue is “Butterflies,” a 50-foot wide aluminum sculpture of a woman’s face surrounded by a mass of butterflies, inspired by Monarch butterflies that the artist observed circling a man’s head. Set in an expanse of lawn near the Moshulu entrance to the garden, it glistens in the sun, making it seem almost as if the butterflies are alive.
Three other sculptures line the lawn outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. “Arcadia” shows a face amidst aluminum ferns. “Alhambra,” the middle sculpture, is a 50-foot horizontal creation of Cor-ten steel with a woman’s face set between two maze-like structures, said to have been inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It is a favorite with the children who run through, stopping to peer out from the lacy openings. “Galatea” is a 14-foot wide statue of a woman peering mysteriously through lacy ferns much like her namesake, the spirit of the sea.
Having walked through the sculpture display, you might want to also visit other parts of the garden, including the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden where masses of roses bloom from late spring into the fall. The Victorian-style, glass-enclosed Enid Haupt Conservatory is filled with tropical plants and flowers from around the world. For the next few weeks, you can continue to enjoy the Monet Exhibit, especially the lily ponds filled with spectacular flowers and enormous pads. As the seasons change the New York Botanical Garden is also an excellent place to view and photograph wildlife. During one visit we were fortunate to spot a Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree; other wildlife is prevalent along Swamp walk in the garden.
For over 100 years the New York Botanical Garden has provided New Yorkers with a sanctuary where they can enjoy the great outdoors, irrespective of the season. If you are visiting New York, be sure to save a few hours to explore these wonderful gardens.
IF YOU GO
The New York Botanical Gardens are open year round Tuesday to Sunday 1000 to 1800 with some exceptions. Check the website for details ( tel 718-817-8700. To save time you can purchase your tickets on-line. This is especially necessary for special events like the super-popular annual holiday train show when tickets are issued for specific times.
The easiest way to get to the NYBG is on the Metro North Harlem train from Grand Central Station, which stops across the street from the Moshulu entrance to the gardens. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Within the gardens, a tram provides transport to various stops within the huge expanse.