New York City in the winter can be a dreary time – the temperature drops, the skies are grey and snow lines the streets and parks. The city becomes monochromatic; green becomes a rarity, as white blankets the entire city. If the city that never sleeps ever actually ever slept, winter would be the time. But jump on the subway and head to the Bronx, and escape into a luscious world of tropical greenery.I’m talking of course about the New York Botanical Garden – 250 acres of verdant flora, tropical greenhouses and state-of-the-art research laboratories – often overlooked by international tourists to the Big Apple but well worth the subway journey. A National Historic Landmark, the gardens open in 1891 and are one of the most preeminent horticulture establishments in the world. Here you can find desert cacti, tropical ferns, colourful orchids and an array of flora from across the globe – complete with a tram to see the most of the gardens, the site is a veritable cornucopia of horticulture and botanical splendour. I was amazed to discover during my winter trip to New York, that it was still possible to be enveloped by luscious greenery.
Out in the grounds, the frosty soil is alive with growth – just under the frozen garden beds, new life stirs. Seeds that have stayed dormant throughout the cold and dark winter are beginning to germinate – melting patches of snow reveal green sprouts and the start of new life. But inside the greenhouses, the temperature soars to 30 degrees celsius, humidity climbs and you’re suddenly in a tropical paradise. Splashes of colours are everywhere – orchids line the flower pots and giant ferns stretch gracefully towards the transparent roof – the moisture in the air envelopes you as the trickle of water fills the tranquil air.
Encompassing hundreds of plants from across the planet, the greenhouse and gardens contain species from all the different biomes – deserts, rainforests, savannah plains and alpine mountains. The research laboratories profile the DNA sequences of plants from around the world and preserve them in freezer facilities – this project, called the Tree Barcode of Life, has profiled over 100,000 plant species. The horticulture research done at the gardens is world-renown and has noble goals – the conservation work done by scientists helps preserve rare species of plants and flowers from extinction and educate visitors about sustainability and the environment.
So if you find yourself in New York City in the winter and longing for a warm stroll through a green wonderland, head to the New York Botanical Garden and marvel at the array of colours, sweet smells and leafy atmosphere.
How do you escape the winter blues during your travels? What Botanical Gardens have you visited around the world?