Garden Diary - November 2009

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden


The Kiku Festival at New York Botanical Garden has reached its pull-by date. Chrysanthemums
in the Japanese Autumn Garden was a wonderful event. And now it's time for the holiday train show.

Leaves are down, trees are bare, and the landscape has a more wintry appearance. Autumn wanes and as the winter season approaches days shorten, the nights lengthen, and we brighten them with holidays and their traditions. The holiday train show kicks off the season late in November, before Thanksgiving, and concludes in the new year. This is so different from the first, somewhat modest appearance was in 1992 and was so popular that its been an annual event ever since. Even with the complication from 1993 to 1997 when the Enid Haupt Conservatory was undergoing very necessary restoration and the train show had to move outdoors. One winter, Paul Busse told me, the waterfall froze into a solid, 7 foot tall block of ice and his crew could not complete the take-down until it melted. No problems now, for the display is in the conservatory.

There is no comparison to a circle of Lionel trains chugging in a circle around the Christmas tree.
Follow me into the conservatory for the press preview, and see what I'm so enthusiastic about.

We detour through the perennial garden as the tent and decorations are being installed over the entrance plaza.

See what enthralls all the visitors from toddlers to tweeners and teenagers, parents to grandparents!
It's the railroad landscapes that the trains chug through. Here is the Enid Haupt Conservatory itself.
Appropriate for a botanical garden, everything from buildings to bridges is crafted of natural materials,
plant parts that range from willow twigs and wisteria vines to eucalyptus leaves and acorns, peppercorns
and poppy pods, curling tendrils and sizeable shelf fungus, to slabs of hollow logs that serve as tunnels.
Nor are the buildings imaginary. Imagination is clearly involved, a creative part of their crafting. Each
structure is based on actual buildings and bridges, though a fair number are demolished, no longer with us.

Let's enter the conservatory. Here we are in the stately Palm Court, gazing at the reflecting pool.

Ellis Island is mirrored in the dark water. It was constructed in 2007. Once built, each of the buildings
are soaked in polyurethane. Paul Busse said that this is what really holds them together, better than
the hot glue used in their construction, and also preserves them. They're trucked from his workshop
in Kentucky, then trucked back again for storage. Paul told me in the beginning he drove his pickup.
Had the model of the George Washington Bridge strapped on top. When he got to the toll booth he said
they should comp him for the toll. The agent laughed - and charged him $16 anyhow.

The Statue of Liberty also reflects in the pool. Lady Liberty was created in 2001, using palm fronds
for her draperies. Cognizant of that September's events, it seems to me that she looks sad.

Across from the pool is Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate.

The marvellous thing is that the closer I peer at the building, the more there is to see

from details of the "slate" tiled mansard roof and figures

to the flower-filled urn held high by these charming imps.

Continuing around the reflecting pool you'll find St. Patrick's cathedral.

It makes a wonderful setting, with the towering palm bole behind the spires. Quiet,
and you can hear the organ music playing. Paul mused that he's always felt that
a forest grove of mature trees is a holy place, a cathedral of nature. Blessed be.

The holiday train show is open from November 21, 2009 through January 10, 2010. Tickets may be purchased here on-line, so you won't have to wait at the ticket booth once you are there. A popular event, I'd suggest that if possible, you visit during the week or early in the day to avoid crowds. The week between Christmas and New Year's is very popular with peak visitation.

And there's another train show entry here if you have not already seen it.

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