Festivities celebrating BBG centennial

This year, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) celebrates the centennial of its founding in 1910.

The milestone comes at a time of historic investment in the institution’s gardens, facilities, and programs; the presentation of globally significant new findings on plant diversity and the urban environment; and the expansion of community horticulture outreach, already a model worldwide for urban gardening education.

Inviting the public to join in the commemoration of 100 years of service and science, BBG will present an array of centennial celebrations in 2010, including, as highlights, a birthday event on June 12, and other themed public events in July, August, and September. The much-anticipated annual Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival unfolds in early May, as always a harbinger of spring in New York City.

As part of the centenary, in August, Brooklyn Botanic Garden officially opens the first major new garden on its 52 acres in more than five decades: The relocated and newly configured Herb Garden is the first of a number of Centennial Projects to be developed in the next several years as the culmination of a decade-long master planning process. Among its herbs and ornamental plants, the new Herb Garden will be inter-planted with major and minor food plants from different parts of the world, reflecting the many cultures of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. Its new Learning Plaza, with a fountain, worktable, and granite sink, will serve as an open-air classroom.

A highlight of the Centennial Projects will be the ground breaking for a new Visitor Center at the northeast corner of BBG. The visionary, LEED-certified building will be a living demonstration of the ingenious nature of green building design. The facility will feature a living roof with a wide range of native and drought-resistant plants, geothermal heating and cooling, and other sustainable design elements.

The suite of Centennial Projects will also include improvements of several features at the southeast end of the Garden, among them a renovation of the Flatbush Avenue entrance in order to better accommodate the 150,000 schoolchildren who visit each year and an expansion of the Discovery Garden, an outdoor interpretive garden developed for preschool and early-elementary-age children and their families.

This year the Garden also will complete and issue findings from the most comprehensive study and documentation of changing plant biodiversity in the New York metropolitan area ever mounted, the 20-year-old New York Metropolitan Flora Project.

Centennial Event Highlights

The key public anniversary observance is BBG’s Bee-Day Celebration, June 12. At this event, visitors can take in beekeeping demonstrations; attend a symposium with noted apiarist and entomology professor Dennis van Engelsdorp and New York Times editorial board member and contributor Verlyn Klinkenborg on the pervasive collapse of bee colonies; taste artisanal honey and mead; and take bee-oriented Garden tours led by BBG’s gardeners and scientists. Live music throughout the day includes marimba and dulcimer serenades, as well as performances by Brooklyn legends the Persuasions and the Sweet Divines. Activities for kids will be hopping, too, from hands-on potting up of bee-friendly plants to readings by the national Children’s Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman.

On June 13, Brooklyn Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury will present “A Garden by Design,” in which he shares some of the stories behind the thoughtful design of BBG’s landscape — a collection of beautiful specialty gardens richly imbued with scientific meaning, many the first of their kind.

Beginning April 3, BBG’s centennial gets under way with Hanami, celebrating the blooming of the Garden’s world-renowned flowering cherries. In early May, Sakura Matsuri, BBG’s cherry blossom festival, marks the traditional beginning of spring for many New Yorkers with contemporary and traditional Japanese music and dance, taiko drumming, ikebana flower arranging, presentations of manga art, tea ceremonies, and hands-on workshops for all ages.

In June and July, the Garden lights up the night with weekly members’ picnics and special evening events, and special tours and workshops focus on local flora in the Native Flora Garden. In August, the inauguration of the newly redesigned Herb Garden will feature a bevy of food-related activities (including the informal group of enthusiastic cocktail imbibers who compose BBG’s Linnaean Libation League).

In honor of the centennial, throughout the spring and summer, some of the Garden’s most senior horticulturists and scientists, all eminent authorities in their fields, will assume new roles as garden guides.

Special Exhibitions

Brooklyn Botanic Garden has commissioned two artists, including its first artist-in-residence, to create site-specific works during the centennial: In The Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery, Emilie Clark created a multimedia installation exploring 19th century scientist Mary Treat’s valuable contributions to the study of beneficial insects (on view now to May 30). In August, internationally known sculptor Patrick Dougherty will begin construction of a monumental installation from tree saplings, onsite in a glade in the center of the Garden.

For its centennial, BBG has invited New Yorkers to contribute their memories of times past at the Garden in the form of photographs, memorabilia, and personal stories, a selection of which will be displayed in “100 Years 100 Stories” in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery, beginning June 7. Coming in September will be the Florilegium Biennial, an assemblage of exquisitely detailed and accurate botanical drawings, each of which documents a plant from the Garden’s living collections.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is at 900 Washington Avenue, adjacent to the Brooklyn Museum. For more, visit www.bbg.org.