Summer in New York is not subtle. It shouts at us, dares us, and ultimately plays with us. “Come out, come out wherever you are!” Gladly we accept this challenge. We work hard and surely earned the pleasures offered by this open season of outdoor living.
Make it a point to visit, via frequent train service on Metro North from Grand Central Station, the fabulous “New York Botanical Gardens” in the Bronx. A short walk from the Botanical Gardens train stop leads to a breathtaking, meticulous world of the natural. You are instantly attuned, and mentally far away from our usual concrete man-made habitat. Talk about “going green!” This is an exquisite environment, city calm at its zenith, some 250 acres of nature’s bounty and beauty at the ready. It is a mere $20 weekday admission or $25 on weekends and children are an $8 admission and $10 on weekends. You can, of course, drive to the Gardens, with a nominal charge for parking.
Immediately as you enter, you will see the free tram towards the left path which runs all day while playing a recorded narrated tour. It is comfortable transport around this enormous expanse of tranquility. You can exit wherever you please to experience this sanctuary, but I highly recommend the Rose Garden – a major draw alongside the artistic, hands-on “Children’s Adventure Garden.” As the tram comfortably ambles forward, you feel like you are in Sherwood Forrest in olde England. Your senses immediately relax, and all your city angst evaporates as if on cue. I expected fairies to fly out of the flowers! There is also a diverse, bountiful greenmarket held on the grounds on Wednesdays offering reasonably priced fresh produce.
However the focal point this summer at the Botanical Gardens is a special exhibition titled “Monet’s Garden.” This is an exquisite recreation of Monet’s glorious gardens at Giverny, Monet’s aesthetic country home in his later, immensely productive years, the actual inspiration for many of his impressionistic floral landscape paintings. His enormous canvases of water lilies, alone, represent the definition of the Impressionistic movement, which forever turned the art world in a completely new direction.
The talented folks at the Botanical Gardens have gloriously recreated Monet’s colorful gardens, complete with the iconic images of the Japanese footbridge and ethereal lily pond. I visited the actual Giverny when it first reopened to the public…trust me, this is indeed the next best thing. However, the Botanical Gardens add a twist…an elegant floral, literary walk prior to the main indoor Giverny recreation, which consists not only of exquisite flowers (“fox glove” is my favorite) but large art easels displaying canvases of French poems written by the symbolist poets Rimbaund and Mallarme.
Look for the Rodina Gallery after the main entrance to the Gardens for an indoor display of two of Monet’s paintings, alongside artifacts once belonging to the artist such as his actual paint palette. In addition, the Ross Gallery is showcasing glorious photos of the gardens and country home of the actual site of Giverny. Appropriately there are musical events on the conservatory lawn scheduled for July 19th, August 16th and September 22nd aptly titled “Water Lily Concerts.” Check the website for the actual cost and musical program, but keeping within the French theme, do I hear Debussy?
There is an affordable, decidedly low key café offering hot and cold meals, snacks, all manner of beverages, as well as a lovely outdoor and indoor gift shop paying homage to the plant world and city gardener. All manner of plants, seeds, florals in pots, herbs to be grown, and gardener’s tools, as well as an amazing selection of gardening books, both pictorial and practical, are reasonably priced for purchase. There is an exquisite, tasteful collection of museum gifts befitting the natural world…scents, candles, honey, jams, floral notecards, decorated plates, serving trays, and cups/saucers.
I cannot praise these Gardens enough, they are a blanket of invigorating fresh air, you leave rejuvenated…a spectacular outdoor world and you have not left the boundaries of New York City. What a delicious way to spend a summer’s day.WHERE: The New York Botanical Gardens Southern Blvd. Bronx, NY (718) 817- 8700 Metro North from Grand Central Station to “Botanical Gardens” stop WHEN: Tuesday thru Sunday, 10 AM to 6 PM Special Exhibit: “Monet’s Garden” thru October 21, 2012
Contributed by: Joanne Theodorou