Every year, BBG springs forward by cutting back. Grasses on the Visitor Center’s living roof and throughout the Garden need to be trimmed in preparation for new growth. The Visitor Center and its surrounding beds account for the largest concentration of native grasses in the Garden and require specialized maintenance.
Ronnit Bendavid-Val, BBG’s director of Gardens and Grounds, and Barry Rogers, curator of the Visitor Center, describe maintaining the living roof as a process of learning how to work with specific species (sideoats grama, prairie Junegrass, little bluestem, and prairie dropseed) under challenging conditions. This March, BBG Horticulture staff and a team from New York Green Roofs—equipped with articulated pole hedge trimmers and rakes—were harnessed to a safety line due to the building’s height and the roof’s steep slope. Cutting back dormant plant material took two days to complete, just in time for the appearance of snowdrop and hoop-petticoat daffodil shoots. Over the next few months, we look forward to seeing butterfly weed, purple prairie clover, dwarf blazing star, and foxglove beardtongue bring bursts of color to the Visitor Center roof.
The living roof is just one component of the Visitor Center landscape. Almost three acres of new plantings have expanded BBG’s collection with 90 new species. Once the roof and its neighboring plantings become established, they will be more self-sustaining and require less intensive upkeep. In the meantime, BBG’s spring cleaning clears the way for fresh growth and months of beauty.
View a slideshow of the cutting at BBG.org, and watch a video of the process by clicking the preview on the right.Photos by Dana Miller.
BBG proudly funds its new Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) program through the Campaign for the Next Century. This intensive ten-week “train the trainer” program offers comprehensive education in urban horticulture and community relations to community members annually at no cost. The goal of the program is to train an active corps of volunteers to assist BBG’s GreenBridge program in serving Brooklyn’s 2.56 million residents.
In January, the fourth class of BUGs received certification in this program. Fifteen BUGs—ranging from millennials to boomers from Bay Ridge to Brownsville—graduated this year, joining 45 others who have participated since the program began in 2010. Each year, BUGs are divided into groups to work on one of three projects: community gardening, school gardening, and streetscaping. This year the program partnered with WHIN Peace Garden, IS 278 School Garden, and Bushwick Eco Action Network.
In 2013, BUGs reported more than 600 hours of community service, bringing the total number of community service hours completed by BUGs since the program’s inception to nearly 3,000. Whether working with youth greening in Bedford-Stuyvesant, teaching workshops at an urban pop-up farm in Williamsburg, or leading tree-care workshops in East New York, BUG graduates remain an active force in grassroots community building and greening.
At the south end of BBG, groundwork is under way on the new, expanded Discovery Garden. This relocated garden, more than quadruple the size of the old Discovery Garden, will provide diverse environments—including a meadow, marsh, and woodland—for budding naturalists to explore. In addition to these inspiring immersive landscapes, children of all ages will enjoy hands-on gardening and ecological explorations in the Hamm Children’s Learning Courtyard.
The expanded Discovery Garden is part of the South Garden Project, a suite of site improvements that will enhance the visitor experience and strengthen BBG’s infrastructure in the southern third of the Garden, closest to the Flatbush Avenue entrance. Check back here for updates on its progress!
This fall we celebrated the start of construction at groundbreaking ceremonies with two generous couples, Irene and Charlie Hamm as well as Suzy Marquard and Jim Breckenridge. Their extraordinary generosity has been essential to this project.
Top right photo: Charlie and Irene Hamm. Photo by Blanca Begert.
Bottom right photo: BBG staff with Jim Breckenridge and Suzy Marquard (fourth and fifth from left). Photo by Maro Elliott.
The list of accolades for BBG’s Visitor Center is growing as steadily as its green roof. We are delighted to announce that it has just achieved a Gold rating by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Recognized early on—even before it opened!—as an inspired example of innovative and sustainable design, the Visitor Center has allowed BBG to expand the Garden’s activities year-round while underscoring our commitment to education, horticulture, community, and conservation.
- Winner, AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture, 2014
- Winner, Chicago Athenaeum, International Architecture Award, 2013
- Winner, Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award, 2013
- Winner, AIA New York State, Design Award, 2013
- Finalist, World Architecture Festival, Display Category, 2013
- Winner, The Municipal Art Society MASterworks Award: Best New Urban Amenity, 2013
- Winner, Building Brooklyn Awards (Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce) National Grid Award for Energy Efficiency, 2013
- Winner, NY American Society of Landscape Architects, Landscape and Living Roof, 2013
- Second Place, World-Architects.com Building of the Year, 2013
- Winner, Architect Magazine Annual Design Review, Bond Category, 2012
- Winner, Green Architecture: Chicago Athenaeum Green Good Design Award, 2012
- Winner, Engineering News Record (ENR) New York, Best Projects, 2012
- Finalist, Architizer A+ Awards, Landscape-Parks, 2012
- Winner, Excellence in Design, New York City Public Design Commission Award, 2009
Now in its fourth season, the “new” Herb Garden is an artful embodiment of many of the Campaign’s objectives: encouraging sustainable horticulture, animating the south Garden, and drawing together visitors from communities throughout the city and beyond with an abundance of beautiful, unusual, and nutritional plants.
This season, corn in particular is being grown to stunning effect. The six varieties in the Herb Garden include ‘Red Stalker’, featuring red-purple stalks and husks, and the Peruvian maíz morado, which can grow to 15 feet tall and is the main ingredient of chicha morada, an intensely blue drink praised as a superfood. Other grains in the garden include teff, used to make Ethiopian injera, and plumed pearl millet.
More summer highlights are vitamin C–rich hibiscus flowers (of Red Zinger tea fame) and an unusual artichoke cultivar, the bright purple ‘Opera’.
This is only a small fraction of the plants found in the Herb Garden, and the full display is as diverse as the borough in which they thrive. Chosen for their adaptability to an urban environment, these plants demonstrate how to maximize productivity in small spaces while offering practical and beautiful models for city gardeners.
Beautiful weather welcomed visitors to the opening of the expanded Native Flora Garden on June 12. This one-acre expansion of BBG’s historic Native Flora Garden is now home to 150 plant species, including 28 rare and endangered ones that were once prevalent in the area but have been displaced by urban growth. Nurtured from locally sourced, wild-collected seed, these plants represent our natural history and will play an exciting role in the Garden’s future as a refuge for regional native plants. As Anne Raver wrote in her recent article for The New York Times, “This is a place to return to time and again, to watch the process of nature, helped by the human hand.”
Helping to cut the ceremonial garland were Scot Medbury, BBG president; Darrel Morrison, the expansion’s lead conceptual and ecological designer; Annette Wilkus, landscape architect and founder of SiteWorks Landscape Architecture; Uli Lorimer, curator of the Native Flora Garden; Melanie Sifton, vice president of Horticulture; Tracey Faireland, director of Capital Projects; and Diane Steinberg, vice-chair of the BBG Board of Trustees and cochair of the Campaign for the Next Century.
The extraordinary diversity of the Native Flora Garden’s new expansion is already attracting wildlife to its unique habitats. A Virginia rail, a secretive bird of freshwater marshes, was recently spotted in the expansion construction site. Native Flora Garden curator Uli Lorimer photographed the bird hiding among empty pots in the garden. Rails are rarely seen because they live among dense cattails and other vegetation in their native marsh habitat and often fly by dark of night. This bird was most likely en route to its summer breeding ground when it made a pit stop at BBG.
The Native Flora Garden expansion opens to the public on June 12, 2013. In the meantime, a beautiful exhibition in the Steinhardt Conservatory, Locally Sourced: Rare Plants, Rare Places, celebrates this garden’s creation with photographs of lovely and rare native plants taken by Uli Lorimer on his numerous expeditions in the field.
It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since the Brooklyn Urban Gardener program was created with funding from BBG’s Campaign for the Next Century. In that time, 45 participants have completed the comprehensive training that has prepared them to be leaders in the field of community horticulture. This year, the BUG participants got their hands dirty across a wide range of community greening projects, including improving streetscaping and merchant engagement on Newkirk Avenue, nurturing a school garden and adopting street trees at PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights, and repairing and upgrading the TLC Community Garden in East New York.
Taught over the course of ten weeks by BBG educators, these BUG graduates learned the fundamentals of urban gardening and community greening, as well as how to interact with communities and engage stakeholders around environmentally focused projects. Through this experience, the certified BUG graduates also gained skills in collaboration, team building, planning, documentation, and conflict resolution. These committed Brooklynites are ready to continue their good work in the Borough’s streets, gardens, schools, senior centers, block associations, and more.
A peek over the construction fence adjacent to BBG’s historic Native Flora Garden rewards visitors with a view of BBG’s newest garden project, a one-acre expansion of the Native Flora Garden that will feature the country’s only representation of the unique pine barrens habitat and the unusual plants that grow there. Slated to open in June 2013, the major hardscape components of the expansion have been completed including the boardwalk and paths, a stone "Council Circle," and an extensive bog. December saw the first wave of planting as a variety of trees and shrubs were installed in the special mixed soil. A second wave of herbaceous plants will be planted in early spring in anticipation of an early June opening.
The progress on-site only hints at the scientific rigor that went into the conception and planning of this project. The expansion will be home to approximately 15,000 new plants, representing over 150 species, some of which are thought to be in cultivation for the first time. In fact, many plants in the garden were sustainably sourced from the very ecosystems it emulates. At least 25 species are of special conservation concern, including pixie-moss and the swamp pink. Several of them were first identified as such through BBG’s New York Metropolitan Flora Project, a 20-year study cataloging all native and invasive plants in the region. In their new home, these rare plants will attract a diverse group of pollinators and other wildlife adapted to live in the unique habitats being re-created in the garden.
BBG's horticulture team has conceived of this garden as an experiment that will unfold over time, with a wild aesthetic that mimics nature’s patterns. Lead Conceptual and Ecological Designer Darrel Morrison notes that the expansion has been “designed with evolution in mind. It will become more beautiful as species migrate and grow.”
In many ways the Native Flora Garden expansion carries forward the founding principles upon which BBG’s original 102–year-old Native Flora Garden was based: rigorous science, education for people of all ages, and a strong commitment to the study and preservation of the flora of the New York metropolitan region.
Top two photos © Albert Vecerka / ESTO. Bottom photo by Uli Lorimer.
In preparation for the groundbreaking of the Campaign’s Discovery Garden expansion, BBG staff found new homes for over 200 perennials and trees and countless bulbs reclaimed from the original garden site. Brooklyn Urban Garden (BUG) volunteers and GreenBridge Community Garden Alliance (The Alliance) members helped dig up selected plants for transplanting to dozens of community gardens in Brooklyn. Recipients included some of those hardest hit by the recent storm, including the Boardwalk Community Garden in Coney Island which was completely wiped out by Sandy. Though members of that garden could not attend the plant giveaway, 25 plants were reserved for their reconstruction effort by BBG.
Both BUG and the Alliance are part of the Campaign’s suite of expanded community horticulture projects that, together, are composed of hundreds of Brooklynites working in concert to reinvigorate community greening initiatives across the borough. It’s wonderful to know that the beloved plants from the original Discovery Garden are finding new homes with Brooklyn community gardeners who will truly appreciate them. What a terrific opportunity to help make our bruised borough a little greener next year.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has much to be thankful for. Although quite a few trees were toppled or damaged throughout the Garden, a huge 100-year-old honey locust miraculously missed the new Visitor Center by about an inch! The building’s green roof also came through the storm unscathed, which is a tribute to its innovative design. The Herb Garden was another new project spared significant damage.
There is lots of cleanup work ahead of us and we have lost some irreplaceable mature specimen trees in the northwest and south end of the Garden. We have posted some images of the damage and cleanup on BBG’s Flickr page.
The process of renewal is familiar, however, to all gardeners. We take comfort in the continued progress of Campaign projects that are addressing critically important environmental issues such as plant conservation, sustainable horticulture practice, and water use and discharge. One of BBG’s major priorities has been to replenish and restore the beauty and diversity of its extraordinary horticultural collections—and that has become all the more essential now.
Con Edison’s Public Affairs team chose BBG’s new Visitor Center for the site of its annual retreat. The team made time to proudly pose for a photo next to BBG’s new Con Edison Rain Garden, recently dedicated in recognition of Con Edison’s support for the Campaign for the Next Century.
This garden, along with two others surrounding the Visitor Center, are not only beautifully landscaped areas but part of an innovative storm-water management system that includes the building’s living roof, its landscaped berms, and the new and existing tree beds along Washington Avenue. The total water savings from these components is anticipated to be in the hundreds of thousands of gallons annually. Learn more about all the sustainable features of the new Visitor Center.
BBG was honored to receive the 2012 Award for Excellence in Design from the Public Design Commission of the City of New York on July 24. The award recognizes the innovative redesign of two important visitor landmarks at the Garden: the Flatbush Avenue entrance and the Terrace Café. Designed by the landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, along with Architecture Research Office, the projects will join BBG’s newly opened Visitor Center in significantly enhancing the visitor experience at the Garden in a sensitive and environmentally conscious manner.
The Flatbush Avenue entrance, used by a third of all Garden visitors, is also the primary gateway for the hundreds of school groups who visit BBG annually. The new design will usher them through the historic brick archway into a lushly landscaped new garden featuring early-spring-flowering plants. A sustainably constructed pavilion will further enhance the experience with expanded ticketing facilities and restrooms.
Also sharing the award was the design for a new stainless-steel outdoor kiosk for the Garden’s popular Terrace Café.
Both projects are slated to break ground in early 2013 and are part of a series of transformative new projects in the south Garden that will better serve visitors of all ages.
Just a few months into its first year, the Garden's Visitor Center is already attracting wildlife. BBG gardener Barry Rogers, who oversees the plantings on the living roof, has spotted a mother rabbit and four babies nesting in the newly planted berm, a mockingbird nest in one of the new hawthorn trees, and most surprising of all, a well-camouflaged duck nest among the tall grasses on the living roof last week. He predicts that the six eggs will hatch mid-summer. We’re so pleased that species from the animal and plant kingdoms feel welcome and at home at the new building!
On a beautiful late-spring evening recently, a group of 80 friends of the Garden gathered to celebrate the unveiling of two plaques recognizing major gifts to the Campaign for the Next Century. A delegation from Brooklyn Community Foundation, led by president Marilyn Gelber, swapped gardening tips with Brooklyn Botanic Garden Auxiliary members and participants from BBG’s community horticulture programs. Both the Brooklyn Community Foundation Learning Plaza, designed to function as a living classroom, and the Auxiliary’s beautiful curved seating wall provide places to converse with friends and reflect on seasonal plantings in one of the most lovely and biodiverse spots in all of Brooklyn.
Photos by Liane Stegmaier.
We were honored to have Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and many others help us formally open BBG’s new Visitor Center at a festive garland-cutting ceremony on the morning of May 16. The building, celebrated for its ability to translate the urban, built environment into the language of the Garden, joins the ranks of recently completed projects in New York designed with an ecological consciousness. Early response from the press and first-time visitors has been tremendous! This sampling of coverage from local and national media reflects the impact the new building is already having on our community and beyond.
This historic addition to the Garden is not just a building but also a landscape exhibiting over 100,000 new plants in multiple gardens. These expansions to the Garden’s horticultural collections, while visually compelling, are not without a larger purpose—they compose the first elements in a new garden-wide water conservation project. Both the living roof, a stunning sweep of meadow perennials and grasses, and the rain gardens, sunken plazas filled with both water-loving and drought-tolerant plants, act as sponges and filters for rainwater, to reduce the Garden’s burden on the municipal water supply. These are only two of the many innovative, sustainable features that make this building a leader in the field of green architecture. Read more about the building’s green features at BBG’s website.
During the week before the garland cutting, we were honored to welcome donors who made early gifts to the Campaign for the Next Century—as well as all our members—with a series of preopening celebrations held behind the construction barricades. In over three days of events, we hosted more than 1,200 close friends of the Garden, who were excited to explore the new spaces and exhibits throughout the building.
The new Visitor Center entrance is now open. Please come and pay a visit!
As warm weather draws us all out of hibernation, visitors will notice that we’ve broken ground on the expanded Native Flora Garden. In an effort to re-create the nutrient-poor soil conditions of a pine barrens plant community, the landscape is undergoing a subterranean transformation: Layers of topsoil are being removed to make room for new, habitat-specific soil blends created exclusively for this garden and mixed on-site at BBG. This essential element of the construction will ensure that a new and diverse collection of native plants can thrive.
In the coming months, construction will begin on a boardwalk and grading work will prepare the terrain for a pond, bog, savannah, and woodland. The bulk of this work is slated for completion in June, with the actual planting set to begin after the most intense summer heat comes to an end in late August. However, the process of ecological replication is a slow-growing splendor that will unfold over generations! To learn more about the expanded Native Flora Garden, please click here.
How long does it take to install a 10,000-square-foot meadow on the roof of a building? According to this video, just two minutes! We captured the entirety of the early-autumn installation of 40,000 plants on the roof of BBG’s new Visitor Center—from September 26 to October 31, 2011—in this short time-lapse video. A month of soil dispersal, planting, watering, and a surprise snowfall has been condensed into two minutes of gardening history.
And the transformation doesn’t end here. The living roof will change throughout the seasons, its grasses, bulbs, and perennial wildflowers attracting local pollinators and visitors alike. By May 16, when the new Visitor Center opens to the public, nearly 60,000 plants will have been installed around the building. Visit the Priorities page to learn more about this remarkable synthesis of architecture and landscape design. Or, download our recent press release (pdf) about the Visitor Center opening.
Watch the video by clicking the preview on the left (be sure to click the icon to see it full screen).
Video photographed by Chris Jordan, with original music by Terence Bernardo.
The roof of the new Visitor Center is poised to complete its transformation into a 10,000-square-foot meadow by the end of October. The project has picked up momentum over the past few weeks as irrigation pipes were laid and 150 cubic yards of soil were pumped in an arc of dirt over the gentle contours of the roof. A conveyor belt then rolled flats of Liatris microcephala (dwarf blazing star), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), and other specially propagated seedlings up to the roof for planting in BBG’s new “garden in the sky,” which is already attracting local pollinators like honey bees and butterflies.
A walk to the top of the Overlook will provide the best view of the project in progress, but make sure to visit again in spring 2012 to see the completed green roof at the grand opening of this extraordinary new building!
A wall–mounted digital map? Instantaneous Garden news updates? Interactive botanical exhibits? These features are among the dozens of interpretive innovations that will be appearing soon in a building near you—the new Visitor Center at BBG in spring 2012. Sonal Bhatt, BBG’s director of Interpretation and Exhibitions, and the award-winning exhibition design firm Thinc have combined forces to create vibrant multimedia and interactive pieces that will equip visitors with the tools to enjoy an enhanced experience in the Garden. The installation will engage visitors while encouraging them to slow down and savor the details and the nuances, the science
and the spectacle of the plant kingdom throughout the Garden. This new exhibit is
just one of the ways BBG’s Campaign for the Next Century is working to provide
fresh insight into the botanical world.
For many Brooklynites, summer means long days of hard work in the borough’s 110 community gardens. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Campaign for the Next Century supports these community greening endeavors with an expanded suite of environmental outreach programs, including the GreenBridge Community Garden Alliance.
The alliance, which works to propagate sustainable gardening techniques, spent this summer cultivating rain gardens. Utilitarian yet aesthetically pleasing, rain gardens help absorb rainwater runoff that would otherwise enter the sewage system as a waste product. In these carefully designed landscapes of mostly native and moisture-loving plants, runoff is naturally filtered, recharging the local supply of clean, fresh water and providing habitat for beneficial insects and birds. The alliance has more than doubled in size since its creation in 2008, bringing together dozens of Brooklyn’s community gardens to share their knowledge and experience and fostering beneficial environmental practices in these oases of natural tranquility.
After reaping the phenomenal bounty of an inaugural year that included, among other delicacies, a pineapple, Caleb Leech—BBG’s resident farmer and curator of the new Herb Garden—has big plans for this year’s plantings. This year the installations have taken on a more wild appearance and are intended to demonstrate the beneficial aspects of interplanting. If 2010’s display was an introduction to the new space, filled with beautiful, ordered beds of edible crops, this year’s garden is dedicated to the fluidity of natural cycles and the changing of the seasons.
The 2011 Herb Garden is blooming with living experiments designed to achieve a state of balance in the garden while educating visitors on basic organic practices. Caleb has already begun the first round of crop rotations, trading cool-season crops for heat-loving summer crops. A frequent visitor might notice that the lettuce has been replaced by okra and the bok choi by eggplant—deliberate choices based on nature’s timing that demonstrate how to maximize productivity and increase plant variety in a small space. Make sure to stop by this one-year-old garden to watch the harvest unfold!
The expansion of the Native Flora Garden, BBG’s 100-year-old collection of beautifully curated plants native to the metropolitan region, has begun on an almost imperceptible scale, with the collection and propagation of native plants from wild seeds. Curator Uli Lorimer and his team have been busy traversing state parks that lie within a 100-mile radius of New York City, gathering plant seeds from bogs, meadows, coastal plains, and woodlands. Uli, a champion of native flora, is committed to growing the new plants for the expanded space from wild-collected seed. View more details about one of these field trips.
This effort honors the prescient vision of BBG’s founders, who understood the importance of displaying the region’s diverse plant communities and providing public education on indigenous plants and their habitats. Doubling the size of the existing garden, the expansion will re-create habitats found in only a few pockets of the metropolitan region—some of which are the last refuge of rare and endangered species. View more details and see the latest map for the expanded Native Flora Garden.
The Leon Levy Foundation, led by philanthropist Shelby White, has pledged its support of BBG’s Campaign for the Next Century with a gift of $7.5 million, the largest contribution by a living donor in the institution’s 100-year history. The gift will help support a suite of projects and initiatives that affects virtually every part of the Garden and will extend well beyond its borders, collectively comprising the most ambitious set of enhancements since the Garden’s founding. View the full press release here.
The building is still in progress, but the growing season has begun for some of the plants that will be featured on the new Visitor Center’s living roof. Working closely with the Garden’s horticulturists and scientists, the Manhattan-based company New York Green Roofs, LLC, has created an innovative plan that will expand the horizons of green roof horticulture and demonstrate how living roofs can be integrated into the surrounding landscape. The seedlings pictured here, of Penstemon digitalis, represent just one of the diverse and eye-catching drought-resistant species that will be part of this compelling and educational four-season display.
We invite you to explore a special exhibition featuring the full range of Campaign projects. Now open in the current Visitor Center, this exhibition includes a model of the new Visitor Center as well as images and detailed information that help bring these dynamic projects to life.
We are pleased to announce that the inaugural Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) class has completed its eight-week course, to much acclaim throughout the borough. The 15 participants, representing 14 Brooklyn neighborhoods as well as a diverse spectrum of ages, professional backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests, were grouped into three teams. Each team was paired with a local organization and assigned a project that focused on a community greening initiative. What differentiates BUG from other master gardener programs is the emphasis on providing community organizational tools specific to urban gardening.
We thought you’d enjoy a peek at what’s taking shape behind the construction barricades. Despite the snow, work is progressing at an impressive pace. Walk to the top of the Overlook for the best view of the construction site.
BBG was recently notified that the design for the new Visitor Center has been selected to receive the prestigious New York City Public Design Commission’s Award for Design Excellence. This wonderful and unexpected recognition is an award shared with the Garden’s talented architects at Weiss/ Manfredi and their engineering and landscape architectural partners. The award will be presented by Mayor Bloomberg on July 1 at the Commission’s annual awards ceremony. The winning projects are selected by the Commission from hundreds of projects reviewed each year, and exemplify the highest standards for design excellence.