Friday, May 2, 2014

New York Botanical Garden's Native Plant Garden

The New York Botanical Garden opened it's 3.5 acre Native Plant Garden a year ago in the spring of 2013.  It was designed by Sheila A Brady of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to illustrate how native plants can be used to create gardens providing interest throughout the seasons.

The “natural garden” concept was developed by the Irish gardener William Robinson in the 19th century, striving to make human interference seem as invisible as the formal garden makes it visible. In the last 40 years, James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme, created what they called “the New American Garden.” Borders, if visible, are permeable.  Plants look as if they have grown in the wild.  Grasses are plentiful. No plant exists in isolation; nothing is static.

The new garden is on a site where Elizabeth Knight Britton, the wife of the Garden’s founding director, Nathaniel Lord Britton, established a haven for native flowering plants.  Brady and her team avoided a strict definition of “native,” drawing on plants native to "the Northeast", from Virginia to Southern Maine and as far west as the Great Plains. The garden embraces shaded woodlands, glades, a sunny meadow and wetlands, each planted with species selected with the garden’s curator, Joanna Payne. Each of these miniature habitats, while flowing almost seamlessly into the next, is meant to be able to sustain its particular ecological character with its distinctive plants.

The Native Plant Garden is designed to be eco-friendly in a variety of ways. Pathways, benches and pavilions are constructed of recycled or otherwise green materials.

Native plants have been adapting to the region’s climate and wildlife over many years, making them hardy and low-maintenance, as well as a source of food and shelter for the area’s animals and insects.
Instead of presenting native flora as replicated eco-systems, native plants have been arranged with a gardener’s eye for color, texture, combinations, and seasonal peaks. But NYBG did not shy away from using cultivars of native plants that have been cultivated for improved garden performance.

The goal of the garden was to create an ecosystem that is both stunning and sustainable. Brady drew inspiration for the shape of the pool from a minimalist sculpture she admired, while she envisioned the woodland as an “outdoor cathedral”. “We wanted to show people that you can use native plants in a display, structured way,” said Brady.

A contemporary, crescent-shaped 230-foot-long water feature constructed in the middle of the Botanical Garden's grounds is fed by recycled rainwater captured on site and filtered by aquatic plants.

Birch trees line the path
Paths lead visitors from shaded woodlands to dry, open meadows, to lush wetlands. The garden features nearly 100,000 trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers, chosen for their visual impact, sustainability, and adaptability.   Close to 400 species of plants native to the Northeast filter water and air, prevent erosion, and provide shelter for wildlife while also supporting the food web.

Virginia bluebells
Dogwoods coming into bloom
A peak from the native plant garden to the rock garden (which requires purchase
of a more expensive ticket than our free Reciprocal Admissions program provided,
allowing access to the conservatory).
Being thrilled to enjoy delightful spring weather we are still waiting to experience
back in Wisconsin, it seemed it would have been a shame to spend any time indoors.

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