Fragrance Garden

Created in 1955 and enjoyed by all visitors to Brooklyn Botanic Garden, this was the first garden in the country designed for the sight-impaired.

A stroll through the Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden is an indulgence of all the senses. Visitors to this peaceful, intimate garden are encouraged to touch and smell the plants. Braille labels identify the specimens, which grow in raised beds at just the right height for people in wheelchairs. Garden beds are arranged by theme: Plants with Scented Leaves, Plants for Touch, Fragrant Flowers, and Kitchen Herbs.


The four main beds in the Fragrance Garden include the following groups of plants:

Plants for Touch

Here, visitors are invited to explore the differences in textured leaves. Some are silky, such as lamb's ears, while others are sharp and spiny, such as agave. The textured-leaf bed also includes such plants as alumroot, cinnamon fern, curly mint, heartleaf bergenia, horehound, and tunic flower.

Plants With Scented Leaves

To release the aroma of these plants, visitors can gently rub the leaves and then smell their fingers. This bed includes such plants as apple geranium, Corsican mint, fumitory, Indian patchouli, lantana, lavender, lemon verbena, peppermint geranium, rose geranium, sage, and southernwood. Be careful with the southernwood—it's poisonous!

Fragrant Flowers

Aromatic flowers bloom here in midsummer. Under diverse weather conditions and at different times of the day, fragrances vary in intensity. Some of the plants found here are candytuft, garden verbena, heliotrope, re-blooming iris, marigold, Mexican evening primrose, nasturtium, ornamental flowering tobacco, petunia, red valerian, snow-in-summer, sweet alyssum, and wallflower.

Kitchen Herbs

Here, visitors can experience such culinary plants as basil, bay laurel, bee balm, chives, chocolate peppermint, clary sage, dill, bronze fennel, garden sage, large-flowered calamint, Mexican hyssop, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, sweet marjoram, thyme, and winter savory.

Curator Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams, Curator

Jennifer Williams is curator of the Shakespeare Garden, the Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden, Bluebell Wood, Daffodil Hill, Celebrity Path, and the conifer collection. Born and raised in the South, Jennifer received a BFA from the University of Georgia and pursued drawing, painting, and filmmaking before joining BBG as an intern in 1998. She then served as a member of the grounds crew before moving to the Steinhardt Conservatory, where she specialized in interior display and design. Her background in art has come in handy through the years as she has designed plant exhibits, seasonal containers, and permanent landscapes, including the Washington Avenue Woodland Garden renovation and her current gardens.


The Fragrance Garden was designed in 1955 by Alice Recknagel Ireys, a renowned landscape architect who was also a member of the BBG Auxiliary. Its construction was funded by donations from the Auxiliary and from many friends of the Garden.

The small, oval-shaped space measures about 60 feet by 100 feet and was designed to bring visitors into close contact with plants.

The west entrance is framed by gates with a dianthus motif that were a gift of the Abraham Cayton family in 1955. Surrounding a flagstone walk and central lawn are four large, elevated beds contained by 28-inch-high stone walls, designed so that people in wheelchairs can comfortably reach the plants. Visitors can run their hands along the continuous metal railing along the top of the wall. Braille plaques describing the plants are mounted on the rail. In 1995, the Fragrance Garden was renovated according to a plan by the original architect, Alice Recknagel Ireys. Again, the work was funded by the Auxiliary and the many friends of BBG.

In the summer of 2001, the Fragrance Garden was dedicated in memory of Alice Recknagel Ireys (1911–2000).

Visitors admire a viburnum in bloom in the Fragrance Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
Tagetes erecta ‘Simba’ (African or Aztec marigold), showing off its ray petals (more like a sunflower’s), which set it apart from standard marigolds, in the Fragrance Garden. Photo by Lee Patrick.
Image, top: