Most people think of a community garden as a place to relax and enjoy a nice walk, looking at the beautiful scenery. And while gardens have always served as a wonderful place for people to get married, savvy planners have started to see the value in holding meetings and other corporate events at these venues.
Why be locked in a stuffy conference room all day when one can be surrounded by scenery straight out of the pages of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden?” Thankfully, the Northeast is flush with magnificent gardens that offer bountiful space complete with all the amenities necessary to run a successful meeting or event.
Getaway in the City
Despite being known for buildings and busy streets, New York is actually home to some of the most lavish gardens in the country.
New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is a National Historic Landmark that celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016 and is home to 50 different gardens and plant collections on 250 acres, supporting more than 1 million living plants.
“The garden is known for not only its lush landscape and stunning scenery, but also its comprehensive educational initiatives and public programs aimed to serve both visitors from afar and the local community,” says Laura Bass, associate director of catering. “In partnership with Starr Events, NYBG has a variety of meeting spaces that can accommodate groups as small as 20 to as large at 300.”
From its Hudson Garden Grill restaurant (holds up to 74 guests), to the historic Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill (60-120 guests), to its newly renovated Garden Terrace Room (up to 320 guests), hosting a meeting there offers one the ability to customize their surroundings to meet the needs of their group. There are also numerous sites to create memorable events.
“No matter the season, the beautiful backdrop of the New York Botanical Garden makes it the ideal choice for a special event,” Bass says. “Each venue offers its own dramatic setting that makes us the perfect location for gala receptions, formal dinners and corporate outings.”
Starr Events offers the ability to create custom catering menus to suit the needs of each event or meeting and its team offers on-site event assistance to ensure all details are managed to perfection.
“What’s more, guests can enjoy a truly unique garden experience through docent-led guided tours, private tram rides through the grounds or, of course, self-exploration through the gardens and surrounding areas,” Bass says. “The New York Botanical Garden also hosts a variety of exhibitions throughout the year in which we are able to offer discounted tickets or private viewings in conjunction with a private event.”
Often called one of “The greatest living works of art,” Wave Hill is a public garden and cultural center located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on the former estate of financier and philanthropist George Perkins.
“With spectacular vistas of the Hudson River and Palisades, Wave Hill’s award-winning gardens are on the must-see list for avid gardeners from around the world, and its buildings and conference spaces are listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” says Carolyn Liv, the facility’s director of corporate partnerships and conferences. “Seven separate spaces within historic Wave Hill House are available for meetings accommodating groups of 10-180, either as individual spaces or as a complete house rental.”
Audio-visual equipment use is included in all rentals, together with an integrated sound system and microphones, LCD projectors, screens, smart TVs and an Apple TV Media Player. All catering is provided by its exclusive on-site caterer, Great Performances.
“Guests are encouraged to explore the grounds, including lawns with spectacular vistas, a half-mile woodland trail and garden rooms that range from an herb garden to an aquatic garden,” Liv says. “Complimentary guided tours of the gardens and of Wave Hill’s gallery of contemporary art, open April through November, are available at no additional cost.”
Brooklyn Botanic Garden is an urban botanic garden in the heart of Brooklyn and, since opening more than 100 years ago, it has connected generations of people to the world of plants, fostering delight and curiosity while inspiring an appreciation and sense of stewardship of the environment.
“The Garden is known for its ‘gardens within the garden’—including the Japanese Hilland-Pond Garden, the Cranford Rose Garden, Cherry Esplanade, and indoor Tropical and Desert gardens—where visitors can discover horticultural wonders from around the world,” says Elizabeth Reina-Longoria, director of communications. “All of our meeting Jarrett offer warm, distinctive cuisine with a focus on local vegetables, grains and sustainably sourced meats and fish.
“Hosts have the freedom to bring their vision to life,” Reina-Longoria says. “Our team is experienced and professional, making the planning and execution of events as stress free as possible for the planners. The Palm House and Yellow Magnolia Café are built inside renovated greenhouses which allow you to dance under the stars, even during an indoor event. The glass-walled atrium and its terrace overlook Cherry Esplanade, an unmatchable view during the spring.”
When hosting a semiprivate group at Yellow Magnolia Café, guests receive discounted admission to the Garden. Private tours can be added to group dining packages for only $20 per person.
The Garden State
As the official botanic garden of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Rutgers Gardens offers those in New Jersey a great place to see some greenery.
Mary Ann Schrum, manager, programs and development, says the historic Log Cabin and Pavilion in the Gardens provide an outdoor, rustic feeling which includes a view of Weston Mills pond as a scenic backdrop, making it an ideal location for events.
Rutgers Gardens offers premier catering who will provide full-service event planning and all staffing needs. Events can be held at the Roy DeBoer Evergreen Garden and the Art Rudolph Sun and Shade Garden, which can accommodate up to 200 people and 160, respectively.
Green in Connecticut
In New Haven, as part of Yale University’s campus, six greenhouses are situated on 8 acres, comprising approximately one third of an acre under glass. Known as the Marsh Botanical Garden, the area serves as an escape for researchers, faculty and students at Yale, but also an informative and eye-catching experience for visitors.
“Those in the area who are attending meetings would be wise to come by and see all we have to offer,” says Eric Larson, manager. “We have research plants, tropical plant collections, our Desert Collection (cacti and other succulents from all the over world) and our Carnivorous Plant display.”
The venue allows private events connected to the University in a classroom-style setup in a greenhouse, which holds eight to 10 tables for around 40 people. It also welcomes anyone to tour the gardens with docent-led group tours.
“Even when it’s gray and cold, we have wonderful plants with lots of fragrance, and people can see some wonderful stuff and maybe learn a little bit,” Larson says. “We’re open yearround and it’s really a great place for people to unwind from a busy work day.”
Farmington Gardens, in Farmington, Connecticut, offer a serene atmosphere for private events or corporate meetings and offer two different rooms for guests to enjoy. “The first is our greenhouse, which can host events of 80 guests and under. The second is our main ballroom, which can host events from 80-342 guests,” says Kalee Brunelle, general manager. “We only book one event at a time, so the grounds are yours during your event.”
“What makes our venue unique is the attention to detail that we provide as a staff,” Brunelle says. “We take the time to discuss all of the options with you and build a trusting client relationship so that your event is stress and worry free.”
It’s open year-round and frequently hosts events such as corporate trainings, retirement parties, banquets, nonprofit celebrations and much more. Farmington Gardens offer on-site catering, waitstaff, bar staff, planners and groundskeepers. It also has inhouse audio-visual systems, such as projectors and microphones.
Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford, Connecticut, contains 93 acres of parkland, gardens, landscapes and hiking trails that focus on the regional plants, ecology and character of Southwestern New England.
Additionally, it boasts seven natural habitats and 12 beautiful gardens (herb, vegetable, three perennials, conifer, witches’-brooms, pinetum, tropical, ericaceous, native and fern).
“The Bartlett Arboretum’s champion trees are the largest of their species and are 150- 300 years old, such as our descendant of Connecticut’s Charter Oak,” says Lisa Silver, a manager of the gardens. “This is unique to the area; much of Connecticut in the 1880s was cleared for agricultural purposes, making it hard to find trees older than 130 years in the region.”
Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens offers a spectacular setting for those who want to venture away from conventional hotel or hall venues for meetings, providing both outdoor and indoor locations for meetings and events.
“The arboretum's colorful and majestic trees and gardens offer the perfect backdrop for private parties and corporate events while its facilities (at the Silver Educational Center) can be rented for an event or on an ongoing basis for weekly or monthly meetings,” Silver says. “The combination of outdoor and indoor space also gives the flexibility to plan different events or activities. An event that starts with a lecture indoors can give way to an exploratory tour outside awakening guests as they experience the property’s natural beauty.”
The arboretum specializes in events for 75-100 guests, though larger parties may be accommodated. The indoor rental at the Silver Educational Center includes chairs and tables as well as a large screen and projector. For outdoor events, guests typically rent chairs, tables, china, glassware, etc. Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens has a short list of approved caterers and tent companies it uses.
Docents are available to provide expert information and describe historical features, habitat, geology, watershed and plant life along the trails.