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Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden began as a 39-acre plot donated by the New York State legislature in 1897. Since then, it's grown to 52 acres of immaculate landscaping ripe with color; bluebells and daffodils carpet the hills and wooded areas, and in the Cranford Rose Garden (with more than 5,000 plants and 1,400 varieties), roses of every shape and size, in mauve, scarlet, or apricot hues, twist around latticework and creep across fifteen rectangular beds. The most dramatic display is the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, an idyllic, contemplative setting with the lake at its center and architectural element—rocks, bridges, and lanterns—throughout. 

Visitors can sniff out aromatic flowers and plants with scented leaves in the Fragrance Garden, admire bonsai trees in the Steinhardt Conservatory, or search the landscaped Herb Garden for medicinal and flavored herbs. Evolutionists-in-training can track the history of Plantae in the Plant Family Collection, which are organized according to when they appeared on Earth. (Ferns were first.) No matter what time of year, there's always something in bloom: lotus plants in August, beautyberries in November, flowering Oriental Cherry trees in spring — Diane Mehta