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For Flowers, Trees, and Pretty Things Growing in Brooklyn: Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

In sticking with the theme of this year, I recently went back to another childhood haunt of mine, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Prior to this recent visit the only other time I have been there was on a school trip in the third grade. I remember it like it was yesterday. My teacher, Mrs. Phillips, was a photographer on the side in her real life, and somehow managed to get cameras for each of her students. This still blows my mind considering how public schools cut their budgets. I am sure she did this on her own. We were all given a camera, went on a school trip (on a “cheese” bus and everything) to the gardens. We were allowed to take pictures of anything we wanted.

I remember how excited I was. It is the first clear memory I have of using a camera. Somehow we developed the pictures, I am assuming she did. I will never ever forget what she said to me: “you have a great eye, I love your pictures”. I am not positive I had any idea what she was talking about but I knew what I felt: instant peace and happiness on a level I can’t explain. What made it more special is this was a teacher I was terrified of in the classroom. She was strict and stoic but with the camera we had a bond. It is a memory I hold dear to my heart. Now it is also my life line. 

I have wanted to go back for a while and that is when I decided to put it on my to-do list for this year ( I go to the New York Botanical Gardens much more often, usually once a year for their annual Holiday Train Show ( I decided to go back to my roots to see what the Brooklyn Gardens had to offer and also I had a job, I was going to take engagement photos for my friends who had just decided to tie the knot.

The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are a popular place to get engaged and I have heard that they do have weddings here. Now I understand why. Even though the summer is probably their off season, as many more flowers will bloom in the spring, it was still a beautiful site for my visit. I actually didn’t appreciate it as much until I looked back at my photographs.

My friends and I set out on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. I was attempting to beat the heat but I was unsuccessful. Also I love the light in the morning in the summer time. Another plus was that it was less crowded. People plus heat and me doesn’t not equal fun.

As I wandered around, stopping to photograph the happy couple, I was also looking around for this blog. It didn’t look like I remembered which of course makes sense given the season change and how many years have gone by.

What I was most excited to see was the Brooklyn Celebrity Path. It is the kind of Hollywood Walk of Fame but for Brooklyn. I didn’t know about this until I saw it on some random TV show a while ago but I think it is great. If you didn’t know about it, it might be hard to find but I was prepared.

What ended up being my favorite place was the serene and majestic Japanese Hill and Pond Garden. It was gorgeous. It is a great place to stop for a breather, take photos, and look around and take in your surroundings. This is a place I could have stayed for hours with just my camera and a cup of coffee. Even now thinking about it relaxes me. It sort of reminds of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco; I never actually had time to go in but passed it by many times.

Overall the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is a great place to visit. It is like a giant backyard for us urban residents. Time Out magazine agrees and says it is one of the places you should visit before the summer is over ( 

This time of year there are a lot of vines and vegetables growing. I liked the names of the roses growing so I took pictures of the ones that amused me. They also happened to be easy on the eyes.

There were interesting pieces of art all around and I always take pictures of shapes when they confuse or amuse me. I also like shrubbery that seems out of the ordinary. There are some examples of what I saw.

For a bonus it is best to go on Saturday before noon when there is free admission. It is hard to find a reason not to go when something is free and fun.

I still have those pictures I took in the third grade in a little photo album. When I looked at it last I feel like I can close my eyes and remember what I felt when I took them. I was so proud to have taken them and received such a compliment.

In another three hundred sixty degree moment I got in touch with Mrs. Phillips earlier this year. It was the first time since the third grade. I told her how much that meant to me and showed her what I was doing now. In an interesting twist of fate I was looking at her current work and I responded so naturally to it. It seemed like a lot of shots I would take, or hope to take.

I am proud to say that I have also recently met my other photography influence, the amazing and infamous Annie Leibovitz ( It was one of the greatest days of my life. I will never ever forget it as long as I live.

I recently saw a countdown of Oprah’s best episodes, according to TV Guide, and they showed one from the very beginning where she has her fourth grade teacher on, a woman named Mrs. Duncan. Oprah tells the story of how she was sobbing and this woman could never understand how much she meant to her even though she was fond of Oprah. As soon as I started writing this blog Mrs. Duncan popped into my mind.

Maybe there is just something extra special about elementary school teachers.

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