Garden News Blog

Search for Plants from Through the Looking-Glass

Lewis Carroll’s classic story Through the Looking-Glass is known for its unique characters, imaginative environment, and playful language. In this fantastic tale, young Alice slips through a mirror and finds herself in a world where there’s a magical garden. What’s so special about this garden? Well, the flowers talk!

Lewis Carroll was a British writer, photographer, and mathematician. The garden in Through the Looking-Glass was based on gardens he saw in Oxford. The characters in his story, including the colorful talking flowers, were inspired by his interaction with children. Many of the plants in the book can be found growing at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. On your next visit, see if you can find some!

Willow Tree

...[She] came upon a large flower-bed, with a border of daisies, and a willow-tree growing in the middle.

Willow trees often have draping branches with long, feathery leaves and tend to grow near streams or ponds. Can you find one in the Plant Family Collection or Water Garden? There are quite a few.

Tiger Lily

"O Tiger-lily," said Alice, addressing herself to one that was waving gracefully about in the wind, "I wish you could talk!"

"We can talk," said the Tiger-lily: "'when there’s anybody worth talking to.”

Look for these dark-spotted orange flowers in the Herb Garden and Monocot Border in the summertime. There are also pink tiger lilies near the Rose Arc Pool.

Rose

"It isn’t manners for us to begin, you know," said the Rose, "and I really was wondering when you’d speak!”

The Cranford Rose Garden is the most obvious place to meet new blooms, but you can also look in the Shakespeare Garden and around Rose Arc Pool.

Daisy

Alice...began asking questions. "Aren’t you sometimes frightened at being planted out here, with nobody to take care of you?"

"There’s the tree in the middle," said the Rose: "what else is it good for?"

"But what could it do, if any danger came?" Alice asked.

"It says 'Bough-wough!'” cried a Daisy: "that’s why its branches are called boughs!”

There are several kinds of daisies growing in the Perennial and Annual Borders on Lily Pool Terrace. Tree branches, or boughs, can be found all over the Garden. Do you have a favorite tree?

Violet

"I never saw anybody that looked stupider," a Violet said, so suddenly, that Alice quite jumped; for it hadn’t spoken before.

What a rude flower! Surely the violets in the Shakespeare Garden aren’t as rude as the one Alice meets. (These violets are garden plants, but you can also find native violets growing wild in a lot of parks and lawns.)

Garden Beds

“How is it you can all talk so nicely?" Alice said, hoping to get it into a better temper by a compliment. "I’ve been in many gardens before, but none of the flowers could talk."

"Put your hand down, and feel the ground," said the Tiger-lily. "Then you’ll know why." Alice did so. "It’s very hard," she said, "but I don’t see what that has to do with it."

"In most gardens," the Tiger-lily said, "they make the beds too soft—so that the flowers are always asleep.”

Garden beds—patches of ground set aside for flowers and other plants—are carefully tended throughout Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Where are your favorites?

More: Search for Plants from Peter Rabit.

Alvina Lai is a photographer at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Follow Alvina on Instagram.

    Discussion

  • Alvina Lai August 2, 2017

    Hi Katherine! Thank you for reaching out. There are plenty of books that children can enjoy before they visit the Garden, and The Secret Garden is a great suggestion. Peter Rabbit is also a good read. We have an article about just that: Search for Plants from Peter Rabbit at the Garden!

  • Katherine Wagner-Reiss July 11, 2017

    Alvina, such a creative way to invite children (and adults who love Lewis Carroll) into the world of plants! Are there other children’s books that people would recommend reading to children BEFORE coming to a botanic garden? I can only think of The Secret Garden, by Frances Burnett.

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Image, top of page:
Crack Willow
Salix x fragilis (crack willow) in the Plant Family Collection. Photo by Alvina Lai.
Tiger Lily
Tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) in bloom in the Herb Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
'Brilliant Veranda' Floribunda Rose
Rosa 'Brilliant Veranda' (floribunda rose) in the Rose Garden. Photo by Alvina Lai.
Shasta Daisy
Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta daisy) in the Perennial Border. Photo by Alvina Lai.
Sweet Violet
Viola odorata (sweet violet) in the Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Morrigan McCarthy.
Flower bed in the Rose Garden
Flower bed in the Rose Garden. Photo by Alvina Lai.