Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden, through August 21, should top your list of day trips during your staycation. The Alhambra is a 13th-14th century Moorish palace complex in Grenada built by Spain’s last Islamic rulers. The Bronx’s majestic old trees and lush verdancy are big draws, and the multi-part installation about the historic Spanish gardens add a dash of foreign intrigue, despite the NYBG being just a few stops from Grand Central Station.
The main feature of the Alhambra exhibition is in the Enid Haupt Conservatory—plantings based on the original landscaping, many emitting evocative fragrances that are proof you’re not in Manhattan. There are a number of architectural and decorative elements designed after the 14th century Spanish style, including a fountain, porticos, and tilework after the geometric, glazed original concept.
Along Perennial Garden Way, a “Poetry Walk” is installed—panels featuring related poetry by Federica García Lorca, sometimes in both Spanish and English. Additional information can be obtained by scanning a code with your smartphone, or by dialing a number. In the very air conditioned Mertz Library Gallery which is situated on an upper floor of the palatial main building, there’s an exhibition of artworks and artifacts called “Historical Views: Tourists at the Alhambra.” It’s interesting to see the various impressions and recollections captured by a number of artists, in particular Washington Irving’s written Arabic practice notes. He lived there for some years and wrote a book titled The Alhambra, of which a first illustrated edition is also on view.
Of course there are humanities events tied into the Alhambra show, including flamenco on the weekends outside (weather permitting), readings of Lorca’s poetry, a gardening demonstration, and a discussion of food and culture of the Alhambra. It’s also fun just to take a tram ride around the gorgeous 250-acre grounds and see the last remaining first-growth forest in New York City.
Don’t miss this SundayArts Profile in which Philippe de Montebello speaks with Gregory Long, President and CEO of The New York Botanical Garden.