In 1907, Hank Eissler built his first large-scale tree in Green Animals Topiary Garden in Bedford-Stuyvesant, only a few blocks from his father’s store and Vassar College. Now 74 years later, Eissler is helping make the botanical paradise a permanent feature of North Brooklyn as he completes a new, estimated $1.3 million, 204-hectare building that will house a “big bugs” selection of 400,000 seeds. (Photo: H. Matissin/For The Johnston Sun Rise)
Henry Stoffel has spent more than four decades building botanical displays for his famous clients: the Pierre family in New York, along with people from Chanel to Agatha Christie. Now, Stoffel’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden has finally picked a location for its grand finale, a placement in the onetime green, undulating center of the Williamsburg neighborhood.
A ceremony was held in the woodsy grounds of Green Animals Topiary Garden on East 29th Street, home to the largest specimens of tropical plants, including the 500,000 live “big bugs” that will be introduced this summer. The garden will hold at least a dozen as it pursues the goal of becoming a permanent, free-standing exhibit of urban foliage for North Brooklyn. (Not that there aren’t still plenty of outdoor plots to be filled.)
“We are thrilled to welcome in our guests of record numbers for the summer of 2016,” said Dr. Henry G. Eissler, president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “Our beautiful creatures and flower gardens must continue to be open in the spring and fall to remain of national and international interest.”
To help bring this garden to life, Eric Wansleben will oversee a $1.3 million design and build that will consist of a 360-degree park built around all of the main trees and shrubs. Working with local landscape architecture firms Loeb & Boffi and American Country Masonry, the creation will feature a “new automated, high-performance, high-tech plant origami master class” to demonstrate the process of growing the giant insects.
Trees and hardwood will house the massive “big bugs,” whose inventory will grow far beyond the original set of 400,000 pairs of pruned leaves each day. The largest “big bugs” will be assembled during winter and put into new homes that are expected to grow even more large — about 150,000 in total.
Stoffel, a retired New York State Department of Environmental Conservation porter, plans to spend the summer being the garden’s “chief ‘big bug’ gardener,” prompting many garden visitors to speculate that this will be a working bee.
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