Sunday, June 24, 2012

Monet Comes to da Bronx

Here we are at Grand Central Station, ready to ride the rails. All New Yorkers dread leaving "The City" for the "outer boroughs" because the transportation perks lavished on Manhattan diminish in direct proportion to one's distance from the center of town. So, if you say "Let's go visit the Bronx Botanical Garden because they've done a reproduction of Monet's gardens in Giverny. You know, the ones where he painted his famous water lily series" -- most people will suck in their breath and calculate how many hours they'll be spending on or waiting for the train. The folks at the Garden know this, so they did two things: they changed the name from Bronx Botanical Garden to New York Botanical Garden, and they put a video on line showing visitors that they can take a Metro North train from Grand Central Station and get there in twenty minutes (rather than more than an hour on the subway) and when you arrive at Botanical Garden Station, the Garden is right across the street. So, since it takes so much time to get to Giverny, we opted for the twenty-minute train ride last Saturday, on a warm and sunny day of low humidity.

Right across the way from our track at Grand Central, we ran into this couple dancing. You can't tell from their outfits, but they're doing the tango. (Does everyone know that the tango originated in the brothels of Argentina? Didn't red lips and nail polish also start in brothels???? Hmmmm.... So Jean's "brothel creepers" turned out to be ever so appropriate!)

New York City has a permit system for subway musicians. You can play without a permit, but if you get one the city will give you a banner with your name on it (and probably other perks we don't know about). Here is the tango-playing violinist, M. Pidvirny, who inspired the couple to dance.

This shot gives you some small idea of the size of the Garden's grounds. Not possible in the center of Manhattan, but possible in the Bronx. (There is also a beautiful botanical garden in Brooklyn, right next to the Brooklyn Museum, both of which are well worth a visit.)

And of course it's the perfect location for a June wedding. Two weddings took place last Saturday at the Garden. Who knew it was Wedding Central?

We did a quick spin around the grounds and headed for the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory which houses the Monet exhibition.


In 1883, Claude Monet established his home in Giverny with his wife-to-be Alice Hoschede and their combined family of eight children. He was dazzled by the beauty of the village. After purchasing the famous pink stucco house in 1890, he dismantled the pre-existing kitchen garden and began to assemble his beloved flower garden. This garden continued to command his attention until his death in 1926 at the age of 86.


Upon entering, it's flowers, flowers, flowers, as far as the eye can see, all cheek by jowl with one another. The temptation to reach out and touch something is overwhelming, but the thought of disapproving remarks from fellow flower lovers was enough to keep us well behaved. For a change.

The re-creation of his garden seeks to capture both the range of specimens and the bursts of color of the original. Since the exhibition runs until October, the plantings will continue to be replenished.


The roses are so lush. We caught these right at the moment that they were about to shed their petals. The aroma is wonderfully refreshing.


The scent of the gardenias is positively intoxicating.


This bright red anthurium looks like shiny patent leather. With over 600-800 species, this flower is referred to as the "flamingo flower" or the "boy flower", both referring to the structure of the spathe and spadix. Doesn't it look just like a cigarette? The less flattering nickname Jean had always heard is "mother-in-law's tongue".

The lime trees are in full fruit. Recalling what happened to Adam and Eve, we resisted the temptation to pick one.


This arbor of colorful hanging flowers is amazing. The shoots have tiny curly tendrils to latch onto what every they encounter. Eventually, left to their own devices, they'd make a floral curtain.


This tiny bee was actually on a lily outside the conservatory, but he was so small and so adorable that we're including him as a guest in the slide show.

These yellow flowers look like fuzzy popcorn.

These foxglove blossoms have delicate little hairs that you can just about make out in the photo. Its latin name Digitalis purpurea refers to the finger-like flowers that fit over the finger tip. Digitalis is also another name for digoxin, the common cardiac drug derived from this plant.

This assemblage of stag horn ferns was as enormous as it was arresting. Attached to the gift shop (with cards, gloves, hats and books) is a garden shop with stag horns for sale.

Of course, the reproduction of Monet's bridge provides the stage for everyone's favorite photo op. You can get an idea of the lushness of the setting.

We stopped a nice couple to get a photo of the two of us, then had to run up on the bridge, pose, and run back to get our camera, to take as little of their time as possible.

A long tunnel connects the conservatory to other exhibitions (like the African desert).

We kept our hijinks low key. Check out the tiles.

Most of them were hidden by the rug. It's easy to imagine they make quite an impression when the rug is rolled up.

The ponds behind the conservatory were planted with the same lily pads made famous in Monet's paintings. These cold water lilies have shorter stems but larger blossoms than their tropical cousins.


Large colorful koi circled the edges of the pond, swimming in a clockwise direction and staying out of the sun as much as possible, while at the same time trolling for snacks from the visitors.

This shot helps give a sense of scale.

When we'd had our fill, we took the train back to Grand Central, and stopped for a cocktail at Cipriani Dolci, where we could look out from the marble balcony onto the crowd.

We asked the waiter to combine the ingredients from two separate cocktails, and wound up with pear puree in prosecco, which we can highly recommend as a great way to end the day.

Au revoir et a bientot, nos amis!

What we're wearing: Valerie is wearing a Henry Margu hat, Calvin Klein linen suit, unlabeled red bathing suit from TJ Maxx, red sandals by Nicole. Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat, H&M skirt, swim cover up asymmetrical long top, Rick Owens shirt, Frida by Illesteva eyeglasses, 1990s white with black polka dot bag, Underground creepers, Happy Feet socks, charm necklace, black metal with white polka dot vintage earrings, vintage bakelite rings.


  1. What a fantastic day (and you both look amaaahzing, as always!) I was recently in Portugal and have posted a foxglove photo, too, in more 'natural' surroundings(!)...take a peek if you'd like:

  2. Everything looks amazing! I'm jealous that you're so close to so much beauty.

  3. Hello Ladies! It was awesome meeting the two of you this weekend on the street! Love your sense of style! As Eric said, Timeless! I have a pic of you on my blog at

  4. Who knew that you were so close to so much floral glory? What a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, and I see that you found the perfect cocktail to top off the day. Thanks for sharing the fabulous flower photos!

  5. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.