Garden Diary -November 2014

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Monday, 10 November 2014
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden

It's a wonderful time of the year. The holiday train show at The New York Botanical Garden is about to open on Saturday, 15 November. And today is the press preview. Lucky me!

Does "holiday train show" make you think of a Lionel train chuffing wearily in an endless circle around a Christmas tree? This blows the socks off that tired memory. Come on, all aboard for a magical train ride into a wonderland where fairies would feel right at home.

How so? Because all the buildings, even the bridges, are made from leaves and twigs, seeds and pods, pinecone scales and bits and bobs that most of us would toss in the compost heap. The construction manager and imaginative architect for all of this is Paul Busse and his team from Applied Imagination.

Up the steps and in through the doors to the Enid Haupt Conservatory. There's a pool in the center of the Palm Court with its crystal palace dome. The little red lighthouse from under the great gray bridge is here, next to the tracks with a train rushing through the greenery and passing by the fanciful buildings. What a splendid introduction to the event!

Bridges are the first things to be seen in the exhibition gallery. Sturdy, structural, recognizable, and yes, there are trains running across them. At the special, after dark evening events they'll be lit with glowing strands of tiny LED lights. But we're here for the preview in the daylight, as work proceeds apace to complete the installation before Saturday's opening to the enthusiastic public. This is the 23rd holiday train show. People who first came as children now come with children of their own. It's that kind of an event, one that becomes an important tradition in the holiday season.

An "engineer" setting one of the G scale trains onto the tracks
(of which there are more than a quarter-mile.)

"I want you to see this." Paul Busse said to me. And here's Cindy Johnson, botanical architect with Applied Imagination, showing me the LED-lit little candles in the windows of the facade of a new building.

Fantastic! The luminous flowers on the African violets serve as runway lights as the magical airplanes taxi down. Safer for the planes, here, where they are out of reach of small hands that grab for things like propellers and stadium lights and other small breakable pieces.

Such magnificent, magical creations. The facade of Penn Station.

Or perhaps you'd prefer to enjoy the Central Park Armory.

Perfect! Fractals are symmetry in terms of scale, smaller to larger rather than the perhaps more familiar left to right. Here's a superb example - we're standing inside the Enid Haupt Conservatory, mesmerized by a delightful scale model of it. New this year, replacing the somewhat worn and tired version that's seen decades of display service.

Grand Central Station. After all, the fairies need somewhere to board their trains . . . .

and travel to a different wonderland than the imaginative versions of the buildings of New York City. Come, pass the head of Lady Liberty into the artists studio tent

. . . .

where there are hot air balloons floating above us

and see buildings from Paul Busse's personal collection, buildings from world fairs and expositions, such as the Japanese Village, from the 1909 Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition held in Seattle, Washington.

Or the Astro-View Towers of the mid-twentieth century World's Fair in Flushing Meadows.

And of course, the iconic Unisphere which, like the Astro-View Towers,
can still be seen as you drive by the former fairgrounds.

Open from Saturday 15 November 2014 through Monday, 19 January 2015, the holiday train show's mini-metropolis features more than 150 replica buildings, some old favorites, some - like the conservatory - updated, and others that are brand new. More information may be found here. Tickets, strongly recommended especially for peak times during the holidays, may be ordered here. The New York Botanical Garden is easily reached by car. There's also a Metro-North train stop just across the Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Boulevard. If you have been before, do come again. If you haven't previously visited, make this your first visit. Bring your friends. All aboard for the holiday train show.

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