A History of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A History of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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A History of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Growing from its humble beginnings as an ash dump in the late 1800's, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has come to represent today the very best in urban gardening and horticultural display. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden blooms in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world. Each year more than 750,000 people visit the well-manicured formal and informal gardens that are a testament to nature's vitality amidst urban brick and concrete. More than 12,000 kinds of plants from around the globe are displayed on 52 acres and in the acclaimed Steinhardt Conservatory. There's always something new to see. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers a variety of public programs all year long. Tours, concerts, dance performances and symposia are always on the roster, as well as special one-time events that feature elements of the Garden at their peak. Each spring the Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates the flowering of the Japanese Cherry Trees with our annual Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival), and each fall is spiced up with our multicultural Chili Pepper FiestaA few of the "Many Gardens within a Garden" include the Children's Garden, tended each year by about 450 kids, ages 3 through 18; The Cranford Rose Garden, exhibiting more than 5,000 bushes of nearly 1,200 varieties; The Herb Garden, with more than 300 varieties -- "herbing" is apparently taking the country by storm as people rediscover medicinal, culinary, and other uses; and The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, a beautiful creation featuring a Viewing Pavilion, Waiting House, Torri, shrines, bridges, stone lanterns, waterfalls, pond, and miniaturized landscape.

About half of the BBG's 52 acres is devoted to the Systematic Collections: trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants arranged to show their evolutionary progression. Visitors will also enjoy the Conifer Collection, Daffodil Hill, Oriental Flowering Cherries, and other special collections.

The Steinhardt Conservatory

The Steinhardt Conservatory is a $25 million complex holding BBG's extensive indoor collection in realistic environments that simulate a range of global habitats. The Tropical Pavilion, 65 feet high, re-creates a rain forest complete with a waterfall and streams. Flora from the Amazon Basin, African Rain Forest, and tropical eastern Asia thrive here. The Helen Mattin Warm Temperate Pavilion houses plants from central China, the Mediterranean, Australasia, southern Africa, and the western U.

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S. The Desert Pavilion holds spectacular plants from arid regions.

The Conservatory offers other wonderful displays and exhibits on themes such as geological and botanical evolution, tropical water plants, and the country's oldest and largest Bonsai collection. A Gallery holds seasonal botanical displays and changing art exhibitions, and the Discovery Center, the first in the country, offers self-guided programs for kids, with shelter, food, clothing, and health as themes.

Families and individuals can take a variety of self-guided tours, and many classes are offered to satisfy any level of interest, from beginner to advanced. Botany, Landscaping, Horticulture, Composting, Herbs, Crafts, Flower Arranging, Art, Photography, and other subjects are thoroughly covered. A calendar of year-round special events and tours wraps up an outstanding public program.

Membership is available for individuals and families at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. As well as the opportunity to belong to a great organization, benefits include free admission to the Garden, special members-only hours and events, discounts in the Garden Gift Shop and at the Terrace Cafe, and discounts on classes and programs for adults and children.

Obviously a great place for a family outing, BBG is also a fantastic educational resource for its community and school and other groups from neighboring boroughs and counties.

School Programs range from Self-Guided and Guided Tours to Explorations and Workshops such as Making Sense of Nature (grades pre-K - 2): students experience the sensory world of plants through sight, smell, touch, and taste; Herbs and Spices from Around the Globe (K - 6): students learn the botany and uses of herbs and spices, sample various products, and even plant an herb to take back to class; Our Green Inheritance (3 - 9): introduces students to some of our more useful plants, such as those from the grass family, and coffee and chocolate; Environmental Issues (7 - 12): an intermediate workshop covering topics like pollution, acid rain, global warming, and endangered habitats. Students will learn how they can be part of the solution, and they will even make compost; Under the Sun (3 - 9): explores the fascinating plants of the African deserts; and Flower Explorations (3 - 4): teaches about pollination and fruit formation.
There are many other great programs like these, each lasting 1½ - 2 hours. Programs can accommodate up to 35 students.

Finally, BBG offers special services and memberships for teachers to help them become more proficient in teaching botany and its related subjects.

Below is a chronological history of important dates in the Garden's history. Highlighting some important developments are photos from our archives taken by Louis Buhle from 1915 to 1968. These charming black and white photos truly capture the evolution of the Garden and the spirit of the times.

Administration Building and Greenhouses dedicated April 1916.

1897 New York State legislation reserves 39 acres for a botanic garden.
1910 Garden is founded; Dr. Charles Stuart Gager is first director.
1911 Native Flora Garden laid out.
1914 Children's Garden program begins.
1915 Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is completed by landscape architect Takeo Shiota.
1916 Rock Garden constructed.
1917 Auxiliary formed to support the Garden.
1925 Thirty-two dwarfed potted trees are donated, starting the now famous bonsai
collection; Shakespeare Garden opens, gift of Henry C. Folger.
1927 Construction for Cranford Rose Garden, gift of Mr. & Mrs. Walter V. Cranford,
begins; dedicated the following year.
1933 Magnolias planted, gift of Women's Auxiliary.

The Children's Garden.During World War I, children collected pennies in a soldier's helmet to benefit a European child.

1936 Rose Arc Pool completed, gift of Mrs.Walter V. Cranford.
1938 Herb Garden, gift of Auxiliary, dedicated; Elizabethan knots established.
1939 Osborne Garden opens, gift of Mrs. Sade Elisabeth Osborne.
1941 'Kwanzan' cherry trees are planted on the Esplanade, gift of Auxiliary.
1945 First issue of Plants & Gardens is published.
1955 Fragrance Garden, designed by landscape architect Alice R. Ireys, opens.
1956 Plant patent received for 'Red Jade' weeping crab apple developed at BBG.
1974 Volunteer Garden Guide program is established by Auxiliary.
1977 Plant patent received for Magnolia x 'Elizabeth', the first yellow magnolia,
developed at BBG; 500-year-old Shogun lantern, gift of Tokyo, New York's sister
city, placed in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.
1988 Steinhardt Conservatory, a $25-million capital project, is completed.
1989 Education Building is completed; Palm House renovated as special events center.

Throughout the Garden's history, teachers have come to learn in ourgreenhouses. These teachers visited in the 1920s.

1992 Rock Garden is restored; Research Center opens at 109 Montgomery Street; Garden
gives first Better Earth Award recognizing environmental commitment.
1993 Lily Pool Terrace renovated.
1994 New mixed perennial border added to Lily Pool Terrace. Administration Building
renovation completed.
1995 Dedication of the refurbished Fragrance Garden.
1996 Breaking Ground opens -- featuring the Amazing Plants! exhibition in The Chase
Manhattan Discovery Center, the outdoor Discovery Garden and the exciting Plant
Discovery Carts.
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