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.