The Plant Doctor: Late summer excursions showcase great gardens

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One of the most delightful summer experiences for nature lovers is to visit local areas that feature a wide variety of ecological beauty ranging from saltwater marsh to deciduous forest mixed with a bit of master gardening. The task, of course is to select your locations reasonably close to home so as not to be exhausted by a long trip. Here are a few suggestions that I have found to be worthy of a morning, afternoon or entire day exploration.

Nassau County Museum, noted for truly beautiful exhibits, is also highly lauded for blending art with the beauty of 145 acres of magnificent woodland and landscaped gardens. During the summer, a truly unique exhibit entitled “Gardens as Art,” adorns the grounds of this facility. Some of the most talented horticulturists in the metropolitan area transform a meadow into 10 theme gardens. Each exhibit is as beautiful as the next, each emphasizing a different motif.

For the most part, the plants, flowers and shrubbery are potted, although once covered with mulch, it becomes almost impossible to see the pots. Mason walks, waterfalls, miniature pools, and a variety of annuals and perennials create an environment that is truly captivating. Too late for this season, but contact the museum at 516-484-9337 for a program of upcoming events. You may even be moved to join the museum, which is located two blocks west of Glen Cove Road at Northern Boulevard. The facility is only 20 minutes from Queens.

The Leeds Pond Preserve - Science Museum of Long Island is located on Plandome Road, about two miles north of Northern Boulevard. I was able to make the trip in less than 15 minutes from Little Neck. The science museum is a teaching facility located on a 36-acre preserve. The living classroom is made possible by the surrounding area, which consists of a variety of ecosystems ranging from forest to salt marsh, brackish pond and freshwater stream.

Visitors are provided with a map listing a variety of different trails, some taking you to the beach adjacent to Manhasset Bay and others through thickly wooded forest. Along the way you will encounter youngsters who attend the summer camp, and their knowledgeable counselors and staff. The youngsters seemed to truly enjoy their interaction with nature, and appeared to be developing a healthy respect for the environment. For more information contact the Museum at 516-627-9400.

Old Westbury Gardens, located on Old Westbury Road on Long Island, is a consistent source of the art of gardening. Surrounding a stately mansion, which served as the Phipps’s residence during the early 1900s, are 150 acres of exquisitely maintained lawns, fields of every conceivable ecology, meadows, woodlands, lakes and ponds.

When I visited the facility in early July, it was a haven for both gardeners and artists. While I admired the magnificent floral gardens, artists were capturing on canvas the beauty and serenity that often escapes the camera and beckons the expression captured on an artists palate.

Amid the sundials, fountains and statuary, birders and animals lovers can be treated to viewing a large variety of birds, butterflies, foxes and rather large hawks, herons and owls.

Booklets are provided for self-guided tours. Formal tour guides led by volunteers are scheduled throughout the day.

For further information contact the Old Westbury Gardens at 516-333-0048. Parking is free, rates for the gardens, mansion and tours are incredibly reasonable. Discounts provided for seniors

Old Westbury Gardens is a year-around facility. The gardens treat you to ever-changing fauna and flora, with special events planned to coincide with the season.

A bit closer to home, The Alley Pond Environmental Center always has something for everyone throughout the year. If you are fortunate, you may take advantage of one of the many guided tours scheduled throughout the year.

A tour of the intertidal habitat of Little Neck Bay explores a unique ecosystem with the mission to understand and appreciate its past, coupled with a strategy to ensure its future. The APEC staff are truly committed educators who pursue their guardianship of the Alley Pond ecosystem with purpose.

The area is traversed by every variety of urban development conceivable and yet when one walks the trails, views the fauna and flora, one admires both the fragility and endurance of a system to survive.

APEC offers wonderful programs throughout the year for children of all ages and adults of all interests. Contact them at 718-229-4000. Membership in this organization contributes to educational programs and the continued preservation of this unique ecosystem.

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

Posted 7:21 pm, October 10, 2011
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