Cherry Blossom Showers : Brooklyn Botanic Garden Walk

A path leading up to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Cherry Esplanade opens up on a fairy tale view of graceful alleys. With its soft greens and pinks, the wide expanse looks as if it could have been painted either by Monet or by a 19th century Japanese artist.  Under the cherry tree canopy, which is so thick with blossoms that you catch only glimpses of the sky, the light is caressing and delicate. Suddenly I feel that I need a floaty chiffon dress and a wreath of wild flowers in my hair to properly fit into this sylvan setting. Plenty of girls around me are doing just that and strike nymph-like poses to be captured on film. When the gusts of wind grow stronger, you have a sensation of being inside a snow globe, except instead of snowflakes, you feel the brush of pink petals against your cheeks.

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival is taking place on April 28 and 29th, but with our unseasonably warm spring, the flowers are currently at their peak.  Even those New Yorkers who claim with pride that they never leave Manhattan make an exception for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during the cherry blossom season. It is worth a car trip or a subway ride anytime of the year, but the spring turns the simple pleasure of a Botanic Garden walk into something exquisite.

The air is thick with the perfume of lilac and wisteria, the bright colors are dazzling, the grass is soft enough to walk barefoot. Everyone looks happy and cheerful, and for a moment you forget the routine, the stress of living in a big city and the long ride back home. You sit under the cherry tree, unwrap your slightly battered picnic provisions, gaze into your loved one’s eyes and feel that this is the closest place to paradise.

Besides the cherry blossoms, which are a big draw this time of year, the bluebells are not to be missed. The Garden has a big field thickly planted with these delicate flowers that smell like hyacinth and green hazelnuts. When the bluebells open up during the day, they look like swirls of turquoise fog hovering above the ground.

A different experience is a row of azaleas in the Osborne Garden section. Shocking pink, purple, crimson and fuchsia splashes of color make me feel energized. Walk on and turn towards the wisteria draped pergolas off the main walkway which look especially inviting. For a brief moment, I even contemplate a second marriage ceremony which we always wanted to do but never managed to after being exhausted by the first one.  I would wear a pale blue dress, carry a bouquet of lily of the valley and trail Chanel Cristalle behind me. As I expound on my idea further, my husband starts to look worried and distracts my attention by pointing out the blooming lilacs.

Whenever I hear that the smell of lilac is old-fashioned and suitable only for Glade air fresheners, I think of the ravishing perfume filling the Garden’s Lilac Collection when their 150 shrubs explode into flower. Lilacs smell like roses, green almonds and wet leaves, with a dark inky undercurrent that feels sultry and languid. Because lilacs are strongly associated with the spring I experienced during my Ukrainian childhood, I feel a particular affinity for them.

Clearly I’m not the only one in love with lilacs—the narrow pathways of the Lilac Collection are always jammed with visitors burying their heads in the plush bunches of tiny flowers. Once I overhead a Russian couple reciting lines from Boris Pasternak’s great novel Doctor Zhivago, “her favorite color was purple, violet, the color of especially solemn church vestments, the color of unopened lilacs, the color of her best velvet dress, the color of her wineglasses, the color of happiness…” That’s when I knew that I must make my visits more regular.

 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
1000 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
718-623-7200
www.bbg.org

For more information on cherry blossoms, please visit Cherry Blossoms at BBG.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved.

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27 Comments

  • Marsha: What a beautiful story, Victoria! It was so beautifully written, I felt like I was really there! I really love your destination posts anyway because they really sit you down right in the middle of wherever you are writing about. April 24, 2012 at 8:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Marsha! Every time I visit, I realize that I don’t visit often enough. Maybe, every week wouldn’t feel enough. Plus, it is great to tune out and just enjoy the scenery. BBG doesn’t even feel like it is in New York. I get a distinct relaxed California vibe from it. A good thing in my book! April 24, 2012 at 9:17am Reply

  • Suzanna: Oh, V., thank you so much for this lovely gift of spring in words and in pictures. I adore lilacs and cherry blossoms! Your description of being inside a snow globe of cherry blossoms made me sigh with pleasure.

    I just visited Leu Gardens in Orlando, a couple of hours south of where I live, and had a very different botanical experience. I photographed the tropical flowers and fruits (figs heavy on the tree) with their hot, vivid colors and thick, waxy leaves. Such a contrast to your delicate and very fragrant Brooklyn garden!

    Your post makes me want to seek out prohibitively priced cherry blossom fragrances, or at least wear En Passant today. April 24, 2012 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Your garden experience sounds fantastic! I love tropical gardens with their humidity, heady scents and rich green colors. BBG had their greenhouses open, but the day was so nice that we stayed outdoors.

      As I sit in my lab right now with its garish fluorescent lights, I would give anything to be back on the Cherry Esplanade. The Japanese custom of admiring the cherry blossoms is one of the most civilized I know. I’m thinking of introducing something like this at home once we have a patio that doesn’t seamlessly meld into the parking lot. 🙂 April 24, 2012 at 9:46am Reply

  • breathsgelatin: Lovely! Thanks for sharing your pictures. April 24, 2012 at 9:53am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! I actually forgot my camera at home, so we drove back to get it. I’m glad that we did! April 24, 2012 at 9:58am Reply

  • Jane: Wow! How utterly beautiful. April 24, 2012 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Jane, the Gardens are so beautiful and so nicely planned out. I also love their rose collection, which blooms in the summer. April 24, 2012 at 6:18pm Reply

  • fleurdelys: I’ve been to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, but not in Brooklyn. That has just been added to my to-do list!

    In addition, if you love cherry blossoms (as I do), Branch Brook Park, which stretches from Belleville to Newark, NJ, is home to the largest collection of flowering cherry trees in the US (I believe). The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park. It’s less than a 30-minute drive from Manhattan, and worth the visit during the cherry blossom season. Here’s some more info: http://www.bellepl.org/cherry_blossom.htm.

    I regret that I’ve never found a cherry blossom fragrance that I like! April 24, 2012 at 11:33am Reply

    • Victoria: What a find! Thank you so much. I now am trying to see if we can make it a trip to visit it this weekend.

      Standing under these cherry blossom trees made me realize how hard it would be to create something comparable. The scent is light, but distinct, sheer, but with a strong presence. I don’t even know if we have such materials in our palette to create a comparable rendition. April 24, 2012 at 6:20pm Reply

      • fleurdelys: Full disclosure: Belleville was my childhood hometown. Hopefully there will still be some trees in bloom this weekend. Because of the strange weather (early heat) this spring, the trees were out in full force back in mid-March. Then the weather cooled and sustained the blooming season for longer than usual. Even if no single-blossom trees are out, there should be some “doubles”. Those always reminded me of ballet dancers’ pink tutus. April 25, 2012 at 11:28am Reply

        • Victoria: I love the idea of promoting our hometowns and our favorite places. There are so many beautiful parks in the NJ-NY area.
          Another place I love is
          Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
          http://www.bhwp.org/

          We go there to picnic time to time. April 25, 2012 at 5:41pm Reply

  • Sarah: Hi Victoria!!
    I’ve been reading ur posts for long now and I really enjoy them even though I’m not a perfume addict. Your writing skills are lovely…this post have reminded me of our orange tree and roses which are about to blossom now :))))) April 24, 2012 at 1:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Sarah! I think that a big part of my enjoyment of perfume simply stems from my love for scents of all kinds. Even as a kid I smelled everything around me–much to my mom’s consternation, as she thought that it looked odd that I sniffed food before eating. 🙂

      I can only imagine how amazing your garden must smell with roses and orange trees blooming at once. April 24, 2012 at 6:15pm Reply

  • Civava: Very beautiful pictures. Here in Slovenia we have rain and cold. All cherry trees droped their petals very quickly. Well, lilacs are still blooming but the rain isn’t friendly to them either. I love smell of lilacs and I digg my nose in their blooms whenever I can or go by one. April 24, 2012 at 3:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: The weather in Slovenia must be similar to what my grandmother is complaining of in Ukraine. She says that her lilacs are out, but that the cherries finished blooming prematurely. We know what it means–no flowers, no cherries, no famous grandmother’s cherry jam!

      Our weather also turned dramatically this week, and now it is very cold and unpleasant. I think that the flowers will drop soon, if it continues. April 24, 2012 at 5:54pm Reply

  • Alyssa: *happy sigh*

    So, so lovely V. Thank you. April 24, 2012 at 4:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you enjoyed it! BBG is such a beautiful place. April 24, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Perfumista8: Beautiful imagery. Thank you for sharing this with us. April 24, 2012 at 7:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed it. The flurry of cherry blossom petals is something I’ve experienced for the first time at BBG. We usually visit just as the blossoms are first opening up and before the petals start to fall. April 24, 2012 at 8:06pm Reply

  • Undina: It does sound like a paradise! I should try to plan a trip to NY next year aroun that time.

    Thank you for beautiful story and pictures! April 24, 2012 at 8:39pm Reply

  • Andy: Somehow I missed this lovely post yesterday—what a nice surprise to stumble upon it this morning! I am of course drawn to the plush botanical imagery that you use—I will have to add Brooklyn Botanic Garden to my list of gardens to go visit. The lilacs themselves are enough reason to make me want to visit in spring, but I don’t know that I can wait a whole year to go see these gardens! April 25, 2012 at 6:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, you will enjoy very much! Their website shows the blooming times of different places, a handy feature to plan your visit. The lilacs will be blooming for some time, so you won’t miss them. As for the cherry blossoms, I only see that they have some trees that are not in bloom yet. This weekend is likely to be busy though, with their annual Sakura festival. April 25, 2012 at 5:45pm Reply

  • sisty: The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are just as you describe! My husband proposed in the Rose Garden, another not-to-be-missed part of the gardens. And our dear friend Joyce was for years the head gardener in charge of the azaleas and rhododendrons. You brought back many happy memories of my time living in Brooklyn.

    And you’re right about the scent of the cherry blossoms. Here in Washington DC, our street is lined with 50 year old cherry trees and the scent is indescribable — and, I’m sure, un-duplicatable (if that’s a word). April 26, 2012 at 11:10am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear this! Our good friends just moved into the area, and they’ve inspired us to visit.

      I never realized that azaleas had a distinct scent, but the one at BBG do. It is soft, creamy, with a hint of green apricot. I suppose that when they bloom at once, the effect is amplified. April 26, 2012 at 1:38pm Reply

  • humphreymom: If I were to visit during the season (Chicago based), which looks like I must…. and wanted to wear something befitting, I might choose Frederic Malle’s En Passant.

    The garden looks almost wet, reminding me of morning dew: fresh, new, vibrant, yet quiet and serene.
    Much like En Passant…smells very wet, as it should. The perfect spring fragrance, the lady at the FM counter at Barneys told me.

    Though I appreciate the angelic feel to spring, the pictures above and En Passant, I am more interested in the darkness in spring…. thunderstorms, rain, grey skies, the silent blue skies just before sunrise…
    And for that reason En Passant is not totally for me (though I love to smell it and wear it occasionally in the spring)….
    All brings me to wonder, what would be a suitable ‘dark’ fragrance for spring?
    I’ve always adored Tom Ford’s Black Violet and find it wonderful on spring nights.
    It’s a fragrance that I don’t believe is suitable for warmer weather and it doesn’t seem deep or dark enough (for my baroque tastes) for fall or winter months, when I’d prefer to wear something really daring…dark, striking..

    By the way, I am a HUGE Malle lover and collector.
    (Iris Poudre, irresistibly my favorite, Une Fleur de Cassie-which was my first Malle purchase, Carnal Flower, Noir Epices, Portrait of a Lady) May 1, 2012 at 9:51pm Reply

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