|(Photos by Haybee Camacho)|
Weather forecasters were issuing yet another winter weather advisory on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But inside the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden, a new Caribbean Garden exhibit provided welcome relief for winter-weary patrons.
Upon entering the main atrium of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, visitors are transported to a tropical oasis of towering palm trees and lush ferns.
“We have so many beautiful plants in our collection and so many grown in the Caribbean,” said Karen Daubman, the Garden’s director of exhibitions and seasonal Displays. “We wanted to highlight those plants. It’s so beautiful for people to stroll through and feel like they are on vacation.”
Visitors agree. “It’s fantastic,” said Marlene Ostertag, an avid gardener who was visiting with her daughter, Karen, a librarian. “There is a little too much snow piled up and having a place of tropical green in the middle of winter is fantastic.”
Near a fountain, Lisa Imundo watched as her 11-year-old daughter Francesca sketched.
“It’s like a little mini vacation,” she remarked. “It lifts the spirits to come in out of the ice and snow. It’s beautiful like summertime.”
The Caribbean Garden exhibition is an outgrowth of renovation work done in the conservatory from June through November. After the infrastructure work was done, the horticultural staff wanted to refresh the conservatory and brought out many of the plants in the Nolen Greenhouse, many of which were from the Caribbean, including the spectacular palm trees in the “Palm Court.”
A staff of five gardeners in the conservatory works hard to mimic the tropical atmosphere of the Caribbean by watering pathways and keeping the humidity level high, in addition to routine pruning of the plants. The plants and flowers are also labeled with their name and country of origin.
Adding a unique touch to the exhibit, visitors also see many of the Caribbean’s most important food plants including banana plants, guava trees, vanilla plants, cacao trees, breadfruit, papaya, nutmeg, coffee, and mango trees.
Rachel Roat likened the exhibition to her recent Hawaiian vacation.
“It feels wonderful,” she said. “I knew it would be warm in here. I feel like I am back on the islands.”