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Brooklyn Botanic Garden Stresses 'Locally Grown' in Native Flora Expansion

By Sonja Sharp | June 10, 2013 8:07am
 The century-old institution spotlights the city's natural heritage in an extension of its locally-grown garden. 
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Expands Native Flora Garden
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — They're the real native New Yorkers. 

Back before Flatbush Avenue was even a footpath or New York called New Amsterdam, some of the city's most coveted real estate belonged to the carnivorous sundew and the diminutive pixie moss.

Now, those plants and more than 100 others are getting their place in the sun in Central Brooklyn as part of a long-awaited expansion of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Native Flora Garden. 

"We started this garden 102 years ago," said BBG President Scot Medbury of the original 1911 installation. "This sun-loving garden got shaded out."

No more. What was once a compost pile dusted with Dodger dirt from Ebbets Field has been transformed into a showcase for the metro area's original inhabitants, including 15,000 specimens representing more than 150 native plant species.  

"One of the reasons this garden feels like it's always been here is because the plants have had over 100 years to grow together," said curator Uli Lorimer."They're part of our natural heritage and also part of our cultural heritage." 

Unlike its more established neighbor, the new extension still needs some time to grow in. The garden opening to the public on Wednesday will look dramatically different just a few years from now.

But that's the nature of artisanal horticulture. Not only is this Brooklyn garden 100 percent locally-sourced, down to the wood planks of the boardwalk that guides visitors through the garden, it's also painstakingly hand-made. 

"We weighed out a couple of ounces of seeds at a time and created a mix," Lorimer said of the planting process. "Darrel [Morrison] the designer did the hand-broadcasting himself."

The end result is a meticulously arranged composition that looks like it's not. 

"I see myself much more as an editor than as a gardener," Lorimer said. "I'm here to make it look like I'm not doing any work."