The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a stunning example of Victorian-style glasshouse artistry, is also home to several aquatic gardens and water features, which are some of the structure's most popular destinations. From early summer through fall the Conservatory’s outdoor courtyards are alive with hardy and tropical water lilies and graceful lotuses, whose vibrant yellow, pink, purple, and blue blossoms float serenely next to swaying grasses and reeds. Inside the Conservatory in the Aquatic Plants and Vines Gallery, visitors can enjoy an elegant fountain and pool displaying aquatic plants surrounded by lush curtains of tropical vines draping from the arching lattice of the glasshouse roof. The conservatory also includes reflecting pools in the Palm Dome (House 6) and Lowland Rainforest House (House 8), which do not feature aquatic plants, and a waterfall flows through the Upland Tropical Rainforest (House 11).
Conservatory Courtyard & Aquatic Pools
The Conservatory’s two symmetrical outdoor pools, which opened in 1903, imbue the courtyard area with a formal, reflective quality. The west aquatic pool contains hardy water lily varieties that remain in the pool over the winter, while the east pool is heated and contains tender, tropical species that are replaced each year. The Garden’s collection includes about 60 water lily species, among these the giant waterlily Victoria cruziana (Santa Cruz waterlily), from Paraguay. Dominating the tropical pool is Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’, a cross between V. cruziana and V. amazonica (Amazon lily). V. amazonica, the world’s largest water lily, has leaves that can span seven feet across, but NYBG does not usually grow it because the cultural conditions in our location are not optimal for it. The garden starts its Victoria waterlilies from seed in January, and they mature very quickly and are placed out into the pools in June.
The Garden currently grows about 15 varieties of lotuses. Among these are the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), which is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists, and is often used in painting and poetry as a representation of divine beauty. The Garden also grows miniature and double rose cultivars. Despite their tropical appearance, lotuses are cold-hardy and remain in the pond year-round.
The outdoor pools include other aquatic species including pickerel weed (Pontedaria cordata), sweet flag (Acorus calamus), and bulrush (Scirpus sp).
The beds surrounding the pools are planted with seasonal displays, which, historically were desert plants and spring tulips. In recent years the Garden uses this space for thematic plantings related to exhibitions.
The Palm House Pool
Lord and Burnham, the premier greenhouse designers of the late 19th century, designed the Conservatory in a modernized Italian Renaissance style. The building originally included a rectangular cast iron pool in the Palm House’s center. Over the past 115 years NYBG has undertaken a series of renovations occurring approximately every 20 years. The most recent multi-year restoration, with leadership support from the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust and the State and City of New York, helps ensure that the collections of palms from around the world beneath it continue to thrive. The project upgraded the infrastructure of the dome, including the mechanical operation of the dome windows, misting system, heating, and lighting. The painted wood cladding around the drum and the wood cornice was also replaced with aluminum, which requires less maintenance.
A previous restoration project in 1976 included a number of significant improvements to the Conservatory that were made possible by a generous gift from philanthropist and horticulturist Enid Annenberg Haupt, who also endowed the Conservatory's upkeep. In the late 1990s, as part of another round of renovations, the Garden installed a large circular, simple pool in the Palm House. This pool does not contain plantings, but reflects the largest greenhouse collection of palms from the Americas and is an ever-evolving palette for popular seasonal and thematic shows. This central pool also offers rich sensory starting point for a walk through the Conservatory.
The Aquatic Plants and Vines Gallery
The Aquatic and Vines House is home to some of the Conservatory’s most-photographed plants, along with the Three Graces Fountain. In nature climbing plants continuously move upward to seek the light but, under the glass roof, sun is easy to find and the vines are lush and plentiful. A jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), with its deep-green burgeoning blossoms, spills down vertical, yard-long strands of flowers. Some visitors consider it the most spectacular plant on show at the Garden. The Dutchman's pipe vine (Aristolochia gigantea) is a Panama native that blooms with velvety, heart shaped flowers from pipe-shaped buds, and an Indian clock vine (Thunbergia mysorensis) dangles long chains of red and yellow flowers. The collection includes specimens of papyrus as well as exotic-looking spider lilies (Crinum americanum), a native American species from the southern US. Diminutive, tropical water lilies bob gently in their Victorian pool, while the fountain trickles down to the blossoms.
The Three Graces Fountain inspires questions from many visitors--Where did it come from? How old is it? Who is the artist? This classical, tiered fountain was sculpted in cast iron by the French artist J.J. Dugel in 1898. At its base the words M.S. deforgee, Paris are believed to indicate the name of the foundry. The fountain is encircled by the images of the Three Graces, daughters of Zeus, who presided over banquets, dances, and all social enjoyments and elegant arts. They are named Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia. The Three Graces Fountain has been part of the conservatory for almost 35 years. Former NYBG staff member David Scheid recalls finding it in a Manhattan rooftop storage area used for the oversize materials of the company Florentine Craftsman, a producer of ornamental lead statuary. With the approval of Mrs. Haupt, he purchased it for the Palm House Pool in 1983. During the 1993-1997 renovation the fountain was moved to its current location in the Aquatic and Vines Gallery where it has remained ever since.
Edited by Beth Hanson.
Thanks to Francisca Coelho for her assistance in creating this guide.