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
For more information on cherry blossoms, please visit Cherry Blossoms at BBG.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved.