Local Heroes: Brooklyn Botanic Garden Celebrates a Year of Native Plants
In Honor the 100th Anniversary of the Native Flora Garden
Release Date: March 15, 2011
People pride themselves on their New York roots—and plants can, too! In 2011, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of its Native Flora Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates plants local to the region.
This yearlong tribute is intended to underscore the vital importance of plant conservation and offer practical ways for gardeners to renew and invigorate their local environment. A related program of classes and events will familiarize visitors with their neighbors in nature.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Native Flora Garden was laid out in 1911 by landscape architect Harold Caparn and the Garden’s first curator of plants, Norman Taylor, who selected for the garden a diverse collection of plants that grow within 100 miles of New York City.
Today, visitors to BBG’s Native Flora Garden can roam through a miniature wilderness that displays an array of plant communities arranged by ecological habitat. After a century of urbanization and industrialization that has made Brooklyn a metropolis, the Native Flora Garden provides visitors with a rare opportunity to witness New York’s many distinctive natural habitats and the biodiversity they support.
“Imagine how prescient our founders were to have planted this garden 100 years ago,” says BBG’s president, Scot Medbury. “Visitors can immerse themselves today in New York City’s local plant communities without ever leaving the city.”
The Native Flora Garden is closely allied with BBG’s Science Department, which over the past two decades has mapped plant species distribution in every county within a 50-mile radius of New York City through the New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF). NYMF provides detailed information about the distribution of more than 3,000 native and nonnative species and is used by parks and garden professionals as a guide to conserving native species and remediating habitats in the city’s public spaces and gardens.
In 2012, BBG’s commitment to display and preserve native plant communities will be strengthened as the Native Flora Garden nearly doubles in size. The expansion will reintroduce two important ecosystems—a coastal plain meadow and a pine barrens habitat—whose sun-loving plant communities have been crowded out by the increasingly dense canopy of trees that are now more than 100 years old. Both habitats will be planted using as many wild-collected specimens as possible, which—particularly in the case of the pine barrens—will make them extremely unique among public gardens in the region.
The garden enhancements will help home gardeners by modeling how native plant communities sustain themselves and support local wildlife. “Planting native plants makes good garden sense,” says Native Flora Garden curator Uli Lorimer. “Because they adapted over thousands of years to the climate and soil conditions of this region, native plants are particularly economical and sustainable.”
EVENTS, EXHIBITIONS, AND PROGRAMS
Native Flora Garden Curator Walks and Talks
3 Saturdays: April 23, June 11, September 17 | 2–3 p.m. | Free with Garden admission
Curator Uli Lorimer will lead three special seasonal tours of the Native Flora Garden this year. The spring tour will focus on ephemerals and spring-flowering shrubs and trees unique to northeastern woodlands. The summer tour will highlight warm-season wildflowers, touching on relationships between native plants, insects, and wildlife. In early autumn, the final tour will feature late-flowering perennials and natives with exceptional fall color.
Curator Uli Lorimer works closely with BBG’s Science Department to assess the health and status of regional plant communities and to bring the bountiful floral diversity of the metropolitan region to the wider public. He is also deeply involved in the design of the Native Flora Garden’s expansion project.
Each tour will meet in front of the main entrance of the Native Flora Garden.
Homegrown: A Day of Local Eating, Preserving, and Song from Brooklyn
Saturday, June 11 | Noon–6 p.m. | Free with Garden admission
BBG will host a daylong jamboree celebrating local flora with some of the finest locals around: Brooklyn’s own purveyors of food, music, and other creative arts. Enjoy the Defibulators, whose urban honky-tonk has been described as “Carter Family meets Ramones…an eclectic acoustic-electric sound all their own” (All Music Guide), and the Matt Munisteri Band, featuring swinging jazz (“Bands like this are why you move to New York.”—The Village Voice).
Enjoy kimchi, pickles, jam, mustard, salsa, and other nibbles from more than a dozen of Brooklyn’s finest makers of artisanal foods. Learn how to make preserved seasonal delights with an afternoon of cooking demonstrations by Laena McCarthy of Anarchy in a Jar jams, Kheedim Oh of Mama O’s Kimchee, and other local chefs. Betsy Jacobs of Tinicum Herb Barn demonstrates how to make herbal vinegars and savory butters using Provençal herbs, rose geranium, and other flavorings. Neighborhood food writers will be on hand to sign copies of their newest books, including Melissa Vaughan, creator of The New Brooklyn Cookbook. A special tour of BBG’s Native Flora Garden will be led by curator Uli Lorimer. Plus, the Garden-wide summer trail “Native New Yorkers” opens! (See below for more information.)
Native Eats at the Terrace Cafe
Through November | Cafe hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
BBG’s Zagat-rated Terrace Cafe will join the celebration by featuring seasonal specials that showcase native edibles. Look forward to menu items featuring ramps, blueberries, Jerusalem artichokes, and maple syrup as well as artisanal foods from Brooklyn’s finest purveyors.
Native New Yorkers: Know Your Neighbors in Nature
June 11–November 13 | Free with Garden admission
As part of its celebration of native plants, BBG’s summer trail will highlight the Native Flora Garden and indigenous species throughout the Garden with a special brochure and interpretive signs. Tips for choosing and growing native plants and cultivars in containers and design ideas for planting with natives will inspire home gardeners. Identifying signs with insects, birds, and other animals will put focus on the vital link between local flora and wildlife.
Mapping New York Natives
June 14–September 4 | Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery | Free with Garden Admission
Since the BBG’s founding, there has been a strong focus on studying native plants. For the past 20 years, BBG’s Science Department has been engaged in the New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF), an inventory and description of plants found in counties within a 50-mile radius of New York City. In addition to displaying spectacular images of our local native species, this exhibit explores BBG’s science efforts including NYMF and how research is being used to help scientists understand native species conservation, global climate change, and the long-term health of ecosystems.
Throughout the spring and summer, BBG will offer classes, workshops, and lectures for adults focusing on native plants and their habitats. Below is a selection of several classes offered, most of which require advance registration and a class fee. Visit bbg.org for more information!
Native Plants for Brooklyn Gardens
Thursday, April 21 | 6–8 p.m.
Starting a native plant garden doesn’t need to be daunting! This workshop covers all the basics, from picking the right plants for your particular garden to sourcing natives in Brooklyn (and beyond) and simple propagation tips.
Trouble in Paradise: Are We Losing Our Native Bees?
Wednesday, May 4 | 6:30 p.m. | Free
Join Dr. Stephen Buchmann for an illustrated talk about North American native bee diversity and addressing threats to bees and other pollinators. Learn about the varied lives of bees, including their close relationships with plants. Hear the latest about dangers to honey bees and native bumblebees, and learn some simple ways to help pollinators in your neighborhood.
Native Plants in Watercolor
6 Wednesdays: June 22, 29; July 6, 13, 20, 27 | 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Use the native plant life found in the Garden as inspiration to improve technique and create beautiful watercolors through individual and class instruction.
Edible Native and Invasive Plants in Brooklyn
Sunday, June 26 | 2–5 p.m.
From the edible native plants of our northeastern forests to weedy introductions such as purslane and lamb’s quarters, there are dozens of unconventional edible plants you can grow or forage. Learn to safely identify, harvest, and prepare these delicious wild ingredients, and discover which noninvasive natives will thrive in your garden.
For Families and Kids
Families and children will find a variety of drop-in opportunities to explore native plants this spring and summer. The week of April 19, during NYC school break, the Garden will offer Discovery Workshops commemorating Earth Day with a native plant celebration in the Discovery Garden. Kids will learn about wild Brooklyn plants through hands-on explorations, create a take-home project, and find a world of wildflowers throughout the Garden.
On weekends from April through June and weekdays in July, BBG’s own teen Garden Apprentices will develop and staff a new Discovery Cart for visitors with native plants as the theme.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES
Works of Fascination; Words of Advocacy
April–June, July–September | BBG Rotunda
In the spring, the BBG Library will display selections from the rare book room, archives, and special collections on native plants of the U.S. During summer, it will present an exhibition on the history of the Native Flora Garden selected from the archives, including letters by its founders, notes of groundskeepers, and images by artists and photographers.
BBG.org will offer online features on native plants, including profiles, ecological relationships, how to source, and how to grow; and on birding, including bird-plant relationships, birding resources, species profiles, slideshows, and a visitor-contributed sightings blog.