Intimate Ecological Ethos

A view of the Cherry Esplanade from the top of the Robert W. Wilson Overlook at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. George Etheredge for The New York Times

Beyond books and other published material, New Yorkers have plenty of places to see natural spectacles, places where nature can be better understood in an otherwise concrete jungle. Ecological ethos describes the new feel of the intimate 52 acres in one of those places:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Turns Over a New Leaf

A wild meadow and woodland ‘ruin’ are now on exuberant display. The new, ecologically minded garden boasts shaggy clouds of vegetation.

Lavender asters burst through ground-hugging meadow species at the overlook. George Etheredge for The New York Times

Only a skeleton staff at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden witnessed the blizzard of cherry blossoms scattered by spring breezes during the pandemic shutdown. Delicate blooms of wisteria tumbled over pergolas and plump roses unfurled with no appreciative fans to say “Oooh.”

The garden reopened in August for a limited daily number of socially distanced visitors. Now, as fall’s vibrant, showy display begins, meadow and woodland gardens completed at last winter’s onset are finally coming into their own. They are the culmination of a yearslong evolution, as the garden turns over a new leaf with the selection in September of Adrian Benepe, a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, as the new president and chief executive.

Botanical gardens have long represented an ideal of nature civilized, clipped and classified. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden hasn’t discarded taxonomic collecting or spectacular floral displays but has steadily brought more of an ecological ethos to its intimate 52 acres. The new plant groupings are comparatively disorderly, host insects and birds, and change constantly with flowers, seed pods, and leaf colors constantly popping and fading.

A long neglected 1.25-acre slope has become the Robert W. Wilson Overlook. It now hosts a sinuous path lined by white concrete retaining walls. It zigzags up amid a maturing meadow in what look like calligraphic brush strokes.

The slope was produced from excavations for the adjacent Brooklyn Museum early in the 20th century. The two glass pavilions that form the Washington Avenue entrance and visitor center had been wedged into the slope in 2012, designed by the architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi. In designing the overlook, the architects echoed the waving grass roofs of the pavilions across the garden. The overlook unites upper-level attractions that wrap the museum with the core of the garden that stretches southward.

The path also eases the slope’s three-story drop for disabled visitors with a ramp so gentle that no confining railings are needed. The serpentine 680-foot-long walkway urges close contemplation as it rises a gentle 26 feet. “The garden slows you down,” Ms. Weiss said…

Read the whole article here.

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