Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Not Enough Greens in the Big Apple? Hop to Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden

September 5th, 2016
Brooklyn Botanical Garden

You don’t have to be a brainy botanist to enjoy the 52 acres of serene, verdant gardens that comprise Brooklyn’s delightful botanic garden. For a morning I forgot I was a mere half-hour subway ride from the melting asphalt of midtown Manhattan.  I wandered from one quiet, shaded path to another spotting secret gardens,


blossoming rose bushes (over a thousand kinds of roses are cultivated here)


Victorian greenhouses and ponds peppered with exotic lotus flowers.


Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) offers something for everyone; Brush up on the history of Plantae at the Plant Family Collection. (Handy fact: ferns were the first plant to appear on earth). Try and list all 80 plants named in the Bard’s plays over at the Shakespeare Garden. The Japanese Hill and Pond Garden, one of the most visited Japanese-inspired gardens outside of Japan, is a must-see during spring’s cherry blossom season. Don’ miss the viewing pavilion and Shinto shrine.


 Photo by Ruiyan Xu

While flowers come and go with the seasons, art is constant. The BBG has invited Canadian sculptor Shayne Dark to bring his works to the BBG as part of a year-long exhibition that ends July, 2017.


I caught up with Shayne this summer. (Shayne is pictured above with Tanglewood Blue) He told me that his installations – often made from different types of wood from cedar branches to apple gnarls – are influenced by his childhood growing up near the Ottawa river in Ontario where he played a lot with sticks and wood. Logs from a nearby paper and pulp factory  would float downstream and get tangled in bends.

As a child I was fascinated to see that, running across the logs and pushing them away and trying to get them back into the flow of the river… I like using ephemeral materials. I’m ok with these works going back to nature. Art doesn’t have to last for durations of time. It has to be in the moment.

Shayne applies matt theatre paint to his pieces. He discovered the flat paint while working in set design at NYC’s Ed Sullivan Theatre (now David Letterman) twenty-five years ago.


The paint is so flat, Shayne explained, so that the light doesn’t bounce into the audience’s eyes and distract them from the performance.  (Shayne pictured above with Tanglewood Red) He likes working with primary colours.

Primary colours are so immediate as compared to secondary colours. You see something red and it emotes a feeling. I like to bring beauty into my work.

Make a day of your Brooklyn outing and visit the Brooklyn Museum next door. Housed in a pretty Beaux Arts landmark building, the museum is known for its top temporary exhibitions. I popped in and saw “Disguise”,  an eye-catching show by 25 artists from Africa and beyond who used the history of African masks to address twenty-first-century  issues.


A little nature, a little culture – my ideal day.

August, 2016