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A visit to Brooklyn Botanic Garden

September 12, 2019
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Nestled in Prospect Park in the heart of Brooklyn, New York City, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is an oasis of peace, calm and nature – the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.

We paid a visit in early summer to explore the gardens.

BBG’s mission is to connect people to the world of plants by fostering delight and curiosity and inspiring appreciation and a sense of stewardship of the environment. Upon entering, this mission is clear. Visitors are encouraged to get up close to a range of cacti and don headphones to hear more information on each species, while gently touching the plants.


BBG was founded in 1897. At the time, New York City was under rapid development and the need to create a green space for the public was recognised.

The Rock Garden was created in 1916 and opened in 1917. Boulders unearthed on-site were used to create habitats for alpine plants.

The gardens

There are a range of gardens to appeal to all horticultural tastes and levels of expertise. Just a few include the Fragrance Garden, designed to stimulate smell and touch – it was the USA’s first garden to accommodate people with visual impairments.

The Children’s Garden is a space where children have been growing flowers, vegetables and herbs since 1914. It’s a chance for them to learn about sustainable practices and stewardship firsthand and encourages a love of gardening from a young age.

With winding paths, artificial hills and a contoured pond, the Japanse Garden is a simply stunning landscape. It’s also one of the oldest and most-visited Japanese-inspired gardens outside of Japan. Beautiful acers adorn the walkways and the viewing pavilion offers the ideal spot to enjoy the peace and quiet.

The Shakespeare Garden is a quintessentially English cottage garden. Did you know that Shakespeare’s works include references to more than 80 kinds of plant?! Each plant in this garden is labelled with the corresponding Shakespearean quote. A selection of alpine and hardy plants can be found here including daffodils, fritillaries and dwarf irises.

Rock Garden

Of course, the area of most interest to our members is the Rock Garden! Opened in 1917, this was one of America’s first public rock gardens. The garden includes alpine and montane microclimates which are home to plants such as succulents, tulips and daffodils.

The microclimates were created by strategically placed boulders. Many of the boulders date back to the end of the Ice Age and were unearthed in the construction of the garden.

The BBG team have worked hard to ensure year-round colour here. In spring, visitors can enjoy daffodils and tulips followed by azaleas and heaths. In summer, poppies and anemones take centre stage while autumn brings stonecrops. In turn, witch hazel brings colour to the garden during winter.

Advice from the BBG team

We asked the BBG rock garden team to share a few of their top tips.

Q: In the UK, we’ve seen a real increase in gardeners interested in alpine and rock plants due to their suitability for smaller gardens. Have you found the same among the visitors to your garden?  

A: The Rock Garden is a perennial favorite. It’s a bit off the main path, however, when visitors find it they love it!

Q: Which plants growing in the rock garden would you recommend to new alpine gardeners?

A new gardener cannot go wrong with Sedum. Lots of great species – definitely something for any garden. We’d recommend Sedum sieboldii, Sedum sexangulare and Sedum reflexum to start. Aside from Sedum, we’d recommend some Delosperma depending on the climate (they are often not as cold hardy as Sedum) and Dryas octopetala (this plant is a little more unusual, but we’ve found it very easy to grow).