The Plant Doctor: 250-acre urban oasis short hop from Queens

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Founded over a century ago, the 250-acre New York Botanical Gardens site provides an oasis of beauty, charm and enchantment — just as the Queens Botanical Garden does, except that the Bronx site is much larger.

There are specialized gardens, natural areas, and plant collections from every conceivable part of the world — and the best part is that it is only 15 minutes from Queens.

Specialists abound in this living museum. Staff is assigned to work on annuals, desert plants, a magnificent rock garden, and a host of specialty areas that make the weekend gardener cringe with envy.

The centerpiece of the gardens has always been the newly renovated and restored Crystal Palace, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. After a four-year, $25 million restoration effort, the conservatory was reopened to the public on May 3,1997.

We are treated to a variety of ecosystems ranging from tropical rain forests to desert plants from the American Southwest. Indeed, a dozen exhibition areas provide a stunning array of tropical, subtropical and desert plants. More than 3,000 plants of every conceivable variety are displayed in natural habitats that feature their unique ecosystem. Plan to spend a good part of your day reviewing this incredible exhibition... but unless you plan to come back the next day, and I think that would be a very pleasant thought, you best follow the garden map to observe the 27 other specialty gardens and exhibits.

While I found all of the gardens to be incredibly captivating, I was fascinated by the Rock Garden. Designed and developed in 1932, the site selected is one of the many glacial moraine areas that carved the features of most of the Northeast.

The designers capture the features of the moraine by planting a variety of native and exotic plants. Some of the plants, known as alpine plants, are placed in the moraine area to simulate growing conditions at the foot of a receding glacier. Now how do you grow Alpine plants in New York? Simple, you run water beneath gravel beds adjacent to the plants to keep them cool during the hot summer months. Another section of the rock garden features plants that usually grow in mountain settings. The plants appear right at home with a waterfall built for their growing pleasure. Lest you think that the Gardens are the exclusive playground of adults — the 12-acre Everett Children's Adventure Garden is quite impressive. My grandson accompanied me during my last visit to the garden. This 2-year old was absolutely enthralled by the innumerable hands-on exhibits, the indoor/outdoor museum, trails, and of course, an incredible miniature operating train system that traverses the entire exhibit. Just for the record, I had as much fun as my grandson -- mostly because I enjoyed being part of his discovery experience.

Don’t concern yourself about the seasons. Every season allows the staff to feature plant and flower displays that put forth their best foliage at different times of the year ... and I am sure that you will want to visit this refuge of beauty many times.

The New York Botanical Gardens is located at 200th Street and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. Open year-around, Garden hours are Tuesday through Sunday and Monday holidays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through October... For information and details on membership, call 718-817-8700.

Plant Tip: Houseplant chores are very much in order at this time. Re-pot root bound plants in pots that are two inches larger than the pot they are growing in. Check for insects, remove dead foliage, and prune back to desirable shape and size. Remember, you want to get these houseplants indoors before the evening temperatures drop below 50 degrees F.

Questions or comments on gardening and plant care can be addressed to: The Plant Doctor, c/o Queens Publishing Company, 41-02 Bell Blvd. Bayside, N.Y. 11361, or e-mail him at:

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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