Botanical Garden Unveils Azaleas

After 120 years, the azaleas are in bloom and better than ever at the New York Botanical Garden.

The NYBG’s new 11-acre azalea garden, in a historic landscape, will open to the public on Mother’s Day weekend, Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8, as well as the weekend of Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15.

Benefactors got a sneak peek at the Azalea Garden, a space that has been completely replanted, on Thursday, April, 28.

The azalea garden was completely replanted through funds obtained solely from Maureen Chilton, chair of the garden’s board of trustees, and Richard Chilton, who have also agreed to provide endowment support for the continual maintenance of the exhibit. Guest speakers were Garden president Gregory Long, Maureen Chilton, Senator Jeff Klein, Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner Kate Levin, and Parks Department commissioner and former Garden employee Adrian Benepe.

“The spectacular new Azalea Garden embodies much that is central to this institution and its mission: beauty of plants and landscape, conservation, curatorial rigor and engagement of the public,” Long said. “With its encyclopedic collection of azaleas and their close relatives rhododendrons, the new garden, a key to component of the Botanical Garden’s 120th anniversary year, will provide a vivid example of the great diversity that may be found by a single group of plants.”

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting took place at the foot of the winding trail through the hillside containing one of the largest and most diverse displays in the NYBG.

The ceremony also doubled as a celebration of the 120th anniversary of the NYBG, which was incorporated in the state of New York on April 28, 1891.

Speaking at a ceremony just prior to the ribbon cutting, Senator Klein, called ‘a champion of providing state funding for cultural institutions like the Garden,’ said the Garden provides the general public with relaxation and a break from the pressures of everyday life.

“During my time in the Senate, I have championed the preserving of state funding for the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program that has allowed attractions such as the opening of the azalea garden to continue year after year,” Klein said. “I am honored to be able to work with the New York Botanical Garden and have the opportunity to commemorate their 120th anniversary with a resolution adopted by the New York State Senate declaring April 28th New York Botanical Garden Day!”

The day was also proclaimed New York Botanical Garden Day in New York City by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a proclamation presented by Levin.

“The city is proud to be part of the partnership that has creating and sustained this institution, and my agency will be investing over 40 million in infrastructure projects over the next few years, but we are very pleased to note that the azalea garden has been completely funded by Maureen and Richard Chilton,” Levin said.

The rehabilitation of the azalea garden has been in the works since 2004, said Long, after two generations of being a worn-out collection. Crowds going to see the azaleas could become a Mother’s Day tradition for years to come, Long said in his remarks.

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