Nested between formal displays and old growth forest, this design was implemented on the former site of a native flowering plant garden cultivated by Elizabeth Knight Britton, wife of the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden’s founder Nathanial Lord Britton. Jody Payne, Director of the Native Plant Garden, collaborated with Sheila Brady of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to select plants that offer such benefits as food and shelter for wildlife, slope stabilization, and stormwater treatment. Funded by the Leon Levy Foundation and opened to the public in 2013, the garden comprises 100,000 plants derived from a list of 500 species native to the northeastern U.S.
A 230-foot-long pond fed by an underground cistern serves as the central organizing feature of the garden, managing rainwater with wetland plants and a recirculation system. A wooden promenade extends north from the garden entrance along the eastern side of the pond, which is sectioned by concrete weirs and cascading waterfalls positioned perpendicular to the promenade. This formal geometry contrasts with meandering woodchip and pebble pathways diverging into mature woodlands to the east and meadows to the west. Within these two zones and set amidst massive rock outcroppings, a diversity of plant types including perennials, sedges, ornamental grasses, ferns, flowering shrubs, and trees blend together visually and function ecologically. The garden diverges from traditional botanical gardens by moving beyond thematic displays of plants grouped by location, climate, or evolutionary development, instead presenting a dynamic collection of evolving plantings with textures and colors that undergo constant seasonal transformations.