New Orleans Botanical Garden

Great visit to NO-Bot in April!

The New Orleans Botanical Garden is nested in the City Park along with the art museum, amusement park, and venue spaces. It is New Orlean’s core open public space encompassing over 1300 acres and also being one of the oldest urban parks in the country. As a current Philadelphian, I would compare this assemblage to Fairmount park, with the Mann Center, Horticulture Center, Art Museum and Zoo all concentrated near or in one of the largest urban parks in the country. However, unlike the horticulture center in Fairmount which is severely underutilized, developed and underfunded, NO-bot had a world class feel. For its classification and setting, I would compare it to the San Francisco Botanic Garden, another thriving garden also located in a city park.

Now for a little history. I’ve learned that the property’s identity and being is marked by two events: Roosevelt’s $12Million W.P.A development of the park in the 1930’s; and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where the failure of the levees left 95 percent of the park in standing floodwaters for weeks and caused over $43 million in damages. Visiting the park over 10 years later, NO-bot appeared to be in great conditions, but i’m sure locals could tell a different story. Nevertheless, I’m still impressed by all this space has to offer in terms of botanical excellence, education and outreach.

Here are my top highlights and observations:

  1. I loved the outdoor garden space memorializing Enrique Alférez, a  Mexican-born Louisiana artist, best known as a sculptor in the art deco style and was very prolific in the W.P.A program. Its a great way to bring attention to people who helped build a city in meaningful ways and to not forget their contributions.
  2. There’s a live oak there reported to be 800 years old!
  3. Very nice conservatory and glass house which is the the focal point of the garden and connects all main axis points.
  4. The indoor display garden was well maintained and had a cool perspective on ancient plants with ferns and fossils, and even included an ancient fish, the aligator gar in the pond.
  5. Many of the formal spaces have that southern colonial revival garden feel, which boxwood beds and hedges creating a framework to showcase miniature and themed display gardens.  Knot gardens galore, with plenty of spaces to show southern favorites such as roses and camellias.
  6. My favorite plant name for the day was the Coastal Dog Hobbel [Leucothoe axillaris]. I love this genus, and look forward to seeing all the varieties out there.


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