We rode Metro-North's local Harlem line from Grand Central. The train was packed. The woman sitting beside me chatted, saying she was going back to her old hood, the Bronx. That when she had been a teenager she'd gone to the NYBG every day after school, when it had been free. "It was my backyard," she said.
That's some yard.
It also turned out that she has written many books about Africa, and has traveled overland from Morocco to Kenya, camping all the way. We had a lot to talk about.
The line to get in was long. Even members had to wait. On the NYBG website there had been no way to find out the cost of an All Garden Pass. The price is simply not listed, anywhere. The website does advertize the $10, Grounds Only Pass.
But at the gate the only price touted was a $25 All Garden Pass, with the $10 option written in fine print at the bottom. Funny. That kind of detail turns me off. But I chose the $25 pass so that I could see the Rock Garden, which is off limits, otherwise. In retrospect, the less expensive option would have been perfect as there was so much to see, anyway.
Once inside the spectacular grounds this was the first sign I saw:
I am still so surprised by the alliance of professional gardeners and gardens with a chemical giant whose links to other giants like Monsanto are common knowledge. I live in a local, seasonal, mostly (but not exclusively) organic food culture, in both my professional and private lives. It is a world where consequences, cause and effect, are a big topic. This kind of kind of association, which seems so counter-intuitive to me, is deeply frowned upon in that edible world. I am very puzzled that the garden world - you know, where plants and food come from!? - seems to be less sophisticated and enlightened, and educated.
It is, of course, about money.
So. That was rather a sad start.
We walked through the forest, which is gorgeous in early springtime. The structure of the trees is still visible, with only the earliest greening in evidence. Above, cutleaf toothwort, which I learned to identify last year in Pelham Bay Park, also in the Bronx.
The scale of the grounds is far larger than the familiar Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, but we found it quite manageable. It was wonderful to see the Bronx River flowing by. Above, golden ragwort.
Out of the forest and into the cherry trees - a grove of low hills and gentle dips.
And a secret lawn with secret crabapple trees. The whole of New York seemed to be in the garden (I bumped right into my friend Deb, better known as BonBon, as I walked into the bathrooms) - but there was no one here, under the trees smelling like snow and spice.
By far my favourite spot.
The climate is a little cooler up here, on the mainland, and while Brooklyn's daffodils have had their day, the Bronx's daffodils are at their peak.