Does Spring Fever have you ready to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, smell the flowers and feel the grass between your city toes? Are you itching to get away from the honking taxis, screeching subways and blaring sirens? Some of us here at GCC decided we couldn’t resist the itch any longer, and took a field trip in search of a tonic for our spring fever.

Fortunately for us, we knew of the perfect oasis full of blossoming flowers, lush green grass, wooded pathways, local wildlife and picturesque scenery. Where is such a treasure to be found, you ask? A mere subway ride away is a delightful gem known as the Queens Botanical Garden.

The Queens Botanical Garden is truly different from anywhere else in the city. Stepping through their gates (for a mere $4 admission) is like stepping into an entirely different world, far removed from the stress of Manhattan. The chirping of birds—Mourning Doves, Warblers, Thrushes and Killdeer to name a few of the species that frequent the gardens— and running water permeated the air, a combination for instant relaxation.

Shari Romar was kind enough to give us a lovely tour. “There’s really something magical here,” she confided in us.  And indeed, there is something entrancing about the bright flower beds, stunning trees and delicious scents that fill the 39 acres of the garden.  And it’s almost impossible to believe that this mini paradise was once the site of a huge ash dump in the 1930’s.

What really sets the Queens Botanical Garden apart from other botanical gardens throughout the city is their dedication to the community around them. From a garden that contains herbs from all different cultural backgrounds, to educational classes to a summer concert program catering the diverse ethnic and linguistic heritages of the community, the Queens Botanical Garden makes itself accessible and enjoyable to anyone and everyone who pass thorough their gates.

In the words of Darcy Hector, another one of QBG’s delightfully friendly staff, “You don’t need to speak a particular language to enjoy nature,” and, judging by the 170 different languages and dialects spoken among the QBG’s visitors, they do an outstanding job of ensuring that people from all different cultures and classes can enjoy the beauty of their gardens.

Besides simply being a delightful place to spend the day, the QBG is also a model of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Their unique and innovative ways to make themselves sustainable alone are worth a visit. Nearly everything about QBG is done sustainably, from their intricate rainwater catchment system, to their integrative pest control methods, to their use of passive and active solar energy, to their green roof.

The QBG visitor center has three different roofs, all of them geared to a different aspect of sustainability. The first is a sloped roof designed to collect rain water which is then filtered using their biotope and recycled to be used for purposes around the garden. The QBG also uses permeable pavers and a sand garden filtration system to collect and recycle rainwater. The second roof is made of photovoltaic cells that provide energy to the building. The building is also naturally climate controlled by the placement of wood planks on the exterior that either block or let in sunlight depending on the season.

The third roof is a green roof that guests can walk on and see a panoramic view of the gardens themselves. The QBG also recently opened its Parking Garden, made with permeable pavers and bio-swales designed to absorb water and reduce flooding.

The Queens Botanical Garden is a beautiful, affordable get away spot to spend a day with friends and family. Here are some of the many interesting and beautiful things to see there:

–      The Fragrance Walk: no need to stop and smell the flowers here, their heady fragrance fills the air along this colorful pathway.

–      The Cherry Circle: an absolute must see. The cherry trees are just ready to blossom, so now is a great time to get up there and see these stunning trees in full bloom.

–      The Rose Garden: Everyone loves roses, and Carl, the rose gardener, has created a beautiful set up that guarantees some healthy and lovely roses.

–      The Herb Garden: This educational and delicious smelling garden shows you the different medicinal and cooking herbs used by different cultures from around the world

–      Oak Allee: Shari says these oaks are simply stunning in the Autumn, with a whole spectrum of reds and oranges.

Did I mention that the QBG never uses pesticides? The flowers you see are 100% organic.

If you are looking for a way to satisfy your craving for the outdoors, make the trip to the Queens Botanical Garden this weekend for their Arbor Day Festival, this Sunday May 1, 11 am to 4:30. There are sure to be breathtaking blooms, fun music, composting demos, bird walks, friendly staff, and lovely weather. Trust us, you won’t want to miss it. (GCC will also have a booth there, so check us out!).

Cannot make it this weekend? Be sure to keep updated on their summer concert series for some ethnic fun, and since there is always something blooming at the QBG, there is never a bad time to go! Make the trip to QBG, and we promise, you will want to go back time and time again.


Photos by John Messerschmidt

Article by Bekah Holloway