The creation of the Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden, in the heart of Lower Manhattan, was prompted by a desire to honor and memorialize the 67 British subjects who lost their lives in the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2002, the St. George’s Society, under the then presidency of William R. Miller, CBE, embraced the idea of creating a permanent garden memorial.
The Garden is administered by the British Memorial Garden Trust.
The Garden was developed from a plan by English landscape designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman. It combines this park’s footprint with the shape of the British Isles, enclosed by a ribbon of Morayshire sandstone quarried from the highlands of Scotland.
Serving as a living geography lesson, this ribbon of stone is inscribed from north to south with the shires of the British Isles, from Aberdeen to Portland. A large, rounded “Braemar” stone, smoothed over the years by the passage of the Dee River near HM Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, sits at the south end of the Garden. In the spirit of a cairn, it marks the distance from New York City to Aberdeen.
Here in the Garden , the rich tradition of English gardens meets the urban American landscape. Lynden B. Miller and Ronda M. Brands, of the New York firm Lynden B. Miller Public Garden Design, worked with the Bannermans design to create a park that would endure through all seasons, with plants that capture the spirit of an English garden.
The four evergreen hollies (Ilex x aquipernyi ‘Dragon Lady’), cultivars derived from an English holly parent,stand as entry pillars at the north and south ends of the Garden. They are linked to the vertical spires of Sky Pencil hollies (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’) by a winding row of 67 nandinas (Nandina domestica ‘Gulf Stream’), evergreen shrubs with foliage that turns red and orange in the colder months, each signifying one of the 67 British victims of the September 11 attacks.
Along the backs of the serpentine benches - made of white Portland stone quarried in southern England and carved in Northern Ireland - are rounded yew shrubs (Taxus x media ‘Brownii’), long-lived evergreens and an iconic feature of English churchyards, representing the natural link between the living and the dead. These plants are the backbone of the Garden, and suggest the narrative behind its creation.
Nestled within is a range of herbaceous and woody flowering plants that recall the plant palette of an English garden, ranging from the tiny blue flower of the Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) and the pink blossom of pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia ‘Bressingham Ruby’) to a host of hydrangeas, spireas, rhododendrons and azaleas. The flowering lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), a native of Europe and often found in English gardens, bears lime-green florets in early summer.
Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden is located in the Financial District neighborhood of Manhattan. The financial hub of the United States, the seat of New York City government, and home to some of New York's oldest buildings, the Financial District has an illustrious history. 17th century settlers began building here, and given the many seafarers of the time, boats could be conveniently docked at one of the slips right near the settlements of wooden homes. Right nearby, in the heart of the district is Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789, also the meeting site for the First Congress. New York City was both the capital of the United States and New York State at the time. The street names reflect the district's fascinating history: Fulton Street, named after Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat; Maiden Lane, originally called Magde Platje in Dutch; Beaver Street, recalling the once-significant beaver pelt trade, etc. The area today houses some great economic powerhouses, including the headquarters of major banks, the New York Stock Exchange, in addition to the World Financial Center. Contrasts are extraordinary, from old two- and three-story old brick buildings near South Street Seaport to the nearby modern mega-skyscrapers. Some of the numerous other attractions include Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington bid farewell to his troops (also, they have a museum!); the newly-landscaped City Hall Park; the Museum of the American Indian and the US Custom House at Bowling Green; Trinity Church, the first parish church in New York City and the resting place of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, among others; War Of 1812 strong hold Castle Clinton; the Staten Island-bound South Ferry; Battery Park; and the Federal Reserve Bank. Sadly, the biggest attraction since 9/11 has been the former World Trade Center site, although, thankfully, construction has finally filled the long-standing gouge in Lower Manhattan's face, and the stunning 9/11 Memorial and its attendant museum are welcome signs of a healing city. And, of course, soaring a symbolic 1,776 feet over the memorial is the new 1 World Trade Center!
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