Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Stream of re-cycled graywater fascinates at the Queens Botanical Garden

Five boroughs in New York City, four botanical gardens and I had only visited three of them until last week. It seemed a terrible schlep to Queens: two subways and a bus, and the outgoing express train not running against the morning commuter tide coming into Manhattan.

But the story of the Queens Botanical Garden is compelling and I’m more than delighted that I ventured forth. Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, with 48% of the population foreign born and people speaking 138 languages. The QBG itself is in a largely Asian neighborhood and this is a space that's heavily used by neighbors rather than by tourists. Explanatory signs throughout the garden appear in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean languages.

This garden of 39 acres just opened the highest LEED rated (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) public building in the State of New York with its new Visitor & Administration Building, all under the leadership and vision of Exec. Director Susan Lacerte.Here are some of the attractions that go into the Platinum LEED rating and ones that you’ll see on a guided tour: solar panels on a large roof;
Re-cycled water from sinks, drinking fountains and shower; some compostingIntensive green roof, six inches of soil with a large variety of native and low water plants.

toilets; green roof over the large auditorium, one you can actually walk on; geothermal heating/cooling system; many building materials locally grown, manufactured, or recycled; captured rain runoff filtered by bacterial action of plant roots supplying a meandering stream graced with native plants and a fountain. AND THE BUILDING IS EXTREMELY HANDSOME AND SATISFYING. Currently under construction is a parking 'garden' with special paving to allow the capture and treatment of water from a typically impervious surface.

The garden itself has many traditional areas including these themes: fragrance, herbs, flowering trees, wetlands, perennials, woodlands, weddings, bee keeping, composting sites. The
rose garden is being
transformed with new
plantings of sustainable
varieties that will need
no spraying. To the
right, white and red val-
erian and bronze fennel
in the herb garden.

The children’s program
offers a huge selection
of classes for all grade
levels planned by the
amazing QBG Director
of Education Patty
Kleinberg. Neighbor-
hood kids plant in
a special garden area,
and explore nature on
weekends and summer

But it’s not necessary to
have an official chil-
drens garden for kids
to have fun. Give them
some water to explore,
a huge blue atlas cedar
to climb and they’re
happy. I heard a smart
mother trying to lure a
recalcitrant four year-
old to “see the roses.”
He wanted no parts of
it until she changed her
offer to “smell the
roses” and they went
off happily together.
(Double-click on any
image for better view.)

For more information
and directions go to QBC.


Treesarecool said...

Excellent column, Ellen, about your visit to Queens Botanical Garden. I was on the same tour and still picked up pointers from your observations.
I enjoyed the tour because of the passion of the director and staff to make QBG as eco-friendly as possible. And it appears they have plans to brings the gardens up to the level of the technology.

Frank said...

oh, you beat me to this one.
Will go this summer!

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Hey NYC Garden, please report back on how the new roses are doing. They're in a raised circle to avoid the high water table where the older roses were planted.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

I agree with you, treesarecool. They're really taking a leadership role.

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