Garden Diary - May 2011

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra at the New York Botanical Garden

Overcast day. Spatters of rain, heavy mist. No matter. Off I go for the press preview for Spanish Paradise, Gardens of the Alhambra at the New York Botanical Garden. There's a members preview on Friday, 20 May, and official opening to the public on Saturday, 21 May. This major exhibition is well designed, hardscaping in the form of arched facade and fountains and rills all in place, plantings - well, the plantings are well underway but this is still a work in progress.

Todd Forrest, vice president for horticulture and living collections at the New York Botanical Garden
who gave us the tour said that all would be completed by 9:59 a.m. - before Friday's 10:00 a.m. opening

Alhambra. Today a UNESCO world heritage site and popular tourist destination, it was built on the southeastern border of the city of Granada by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus in the mid 14th century as a palace and fortress complex. The park (Alameda de la Alhambra) was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges and myrtles and filled with the sound of running water from several fountains and cascades.

A paradise garden in the traditional Spanish style is interpreted with a central cross axis in the four cardinal directions. Set in a walled courtyard, water reflects and flows in long channels, a stylized qanat. The remaining quadrants often had fruit trees and fragrant plants: water providing refreshing coolness, humidity, and the musical sounds of fountains; greenery and fragrance for added sensual delight in a hot and arid climate. Here, boxwood has been substituted for the more traditional myrtle which would not do well in the Bronx.

At the end of each of the two cross arms is a black pebble mosaic.

A view down the long walkway towards the facade beyond the pool and rills.

. . . .

Lemon trees heavily in fruit and deliciously, fragrantly in flower. . . . . Oleander in pink and white
Lavender in hedge-like rows backed with bright blue salvia . . . . . . and olive trees about to flower

. . . . .

Plants in the Generalife gardens were planted there for many reasons: beauty to the eye of the beholder, fragrance to delight another sense
medicinal and culinary herbs such as bay laurel, golden pot marigold, Calendula, and cucumber-tasting blue flowers of Borago officinalis

. . . . .

The fountain is in place in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory's
palm court reflecting pool. Water is not yet splashing down
to disturb the reflecting pool. They have a day to turn it on.
It will surely be ready for your visit to Gardens of the Alhambra.

There are actually three parts to this exhibition. As well as the 15,000 square foot interpretation of the gardens in the conservatory there is Historical Views: Tourists at the Alhambra with etchings, prints, photographs, and watercolors in the William D. Rondina and Giovanni Forono LoFaro Gallery across from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, and a poetry walk in the perennial garden featuring works of Frederico Garcia Lorca.

The gallery exhibition and poetry walk are part of the general admission to the New York Botanical Garden. There is a fee for the conservatory exhibition of $20.00 adults, $18.00 seniors, $8.00 children, and free to garden members. The exhibition is on view from Saturday, 21 May through Sunday, 21 August 2011. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

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