Q. Can you tell me about the Perennial Garden at NYBG?
Modernist landscape architect Daniel Urban Kiley originally designed the Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden, along with several other gardens surrounding the Conservatory Building, in the 1970’s. He created an ordered, geometric garden based on a grid of squares. The plantings were organized around plant families, emphasizing their botanical relationships. In 1975, the garden was dedicated to the memory of Jane Watson Irwin. A partial redesign in 1982, by David T. Scheid and William H. Einhorn, simplified the Kiley garden and renewed the plantings.
The garden that exists today owes its vision to Lynden B. Miller and two major renovations since she became the principal designer in 1987. Ms. Miller is a masterful horticulturist whose knowledge of plants and the conditions in which they thrive, helps bring success and vitality to the garden. But it is Ms. Miller’s background as a painter and her vision of garden creation as art that have made her a successful public space garden designer.
Ms. Miller redefined each section or “room” of the garden, highlighting them in a unique way inspired by traditional English perennial gardens. A yew hedge was planted to frame the garden and define the space. Glancing into the garden from the entrance on the Conservatory Plaza, one can see into the middle of the gardens to an armillary with a grapevine growing on it in the “Hot Room”.
As in all gardens, Ms. Miller and the garden staff tweak and rethink planting decisions when needed, continually nurturing the plants and the design. But in 2003, Ms. Miller consulted on a major renovation of this garden resulting in newly paved paths, reconfigured beds, 2,000 new plants and even a new entrance from the Conservatory walkway. Water and irrigation systems were also replaced.
For a more detailed description of the NYBG Perennial Garden and a list of featured plants, please refer to our guide Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden.