The beautiful and bountiful New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park

The beautiful and bountiful New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park
August 7, 2009
Katherine K. Parker

New Orleans Botanical Garden’s History

Originally named the City Park Rose Garden in 1936, the New Orleans Botanical Garden was a product of the WPA era, and it is one of few WPA undertakings that is still in use and open to the public on a regular schedule. Its style was primarily Art Deco and was the design of architect Richard Kosch, landscape architect William Wiedorn, and artist-sculptor Enrique Alferez. It was New Orleans’ first classical public garden. When funding from the WPA ended, the garden was left on its own. Between 1940 and 1980, the New Orleans Botanical Garden, as it is known today, declined.

In 1980, interest renewed itself as the “Friends of City Park” became involved in the New Orleans Botanical Garden’s revitalization. The garden was cleaned; new plants were planted; and sculptures were restored by Alferez. Renovations and additions continued through the 1990s. The site was developing well during the last two decades of the 20th century and early in the 21st century. But on August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina’s three foot deep flood waters that sat on the garden’s flora for two weeks damaged 90% of the plant life. The buildings and sculptures luckily were preserved.

The Botanical Garden reopened in March, 2006. Today’s New Orleans Botanical Garden is laid out in small gardens, and each of these sections displays distinct species of flora. In addition, paths and other formations separate these divisions.

One of the most intriguing features is the historic train garden, an exhibit of G-gauge streetcars and freight trains that run the rails through models of the New Orleans area neighborhoods in the 19th century. Most of the model’s buildings are composed of plant material.

Other favorite displays and structures are the herb and vegetable garden with its large sugar cane vat, the domed conservatory, pools, statues and sun dials by Alferez, and whimsically decorated birdhouse feeders representing houses in areas of the city. Also, the lush lawns, 2,000 species of plants, and our nation’s largest stand of live oaks add to a most pleasurable visit.

Things to See and Do

There is a lot to see and do at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park. In addition to providing the public a journey through a magnificent garden, the Botanical Garden also presents the Thursdays at Twilight Garden Concert Series in the Pavilion of the Two Sisters March 12 through October 8, 2009. Scheduled for the rest of the concert season are jazz, gospel, guitar, country and blues performances. Also on the calendar are plant sales in August and September, and the Fall Garden Show and Scarecrow Trail in October 2009. See their Calendar of Events for details. Normal operating hours are Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 AM. To 4:30 PM. Admission: Adults - $6 (including children over 12); Children (5 -12) $3; and Children under 5 and Friends of City Park - free. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:30 AM.
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