Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a good first choice. Accessible by subway, there is parking nearby on unmetered side streets.

It’s next to Prospect Park, Brooklyn Museum, and Park Slope. It has a great Japanese garden among a dozen specialized gardens

Smaller means a more manageable visit. It’s more formally organized, a set of Victorian gardens. Result? More integrated into surrounding neighborhoods means more access to shops and especially to reasonably priced eating places in Park Slope or on Atlantic Avenue. This is the same spirit that its neighbor holds, the Brooklyn Museum – notably in their First Saturday events where they throw open the doors to their neighbors from 5-11pm with food, dancing, movies – and of course tours. Overall the two are more an everyday park for residents instead of a destination park with all the expense, crowds, focus on entertainment that entails. Count yourself lucky if you live nearby.

NYBG is more naturally designed, including a stand of the original forest that used to cover all of Manhattan. It has a rock garden, a conifer collection, and a tremendous rose garden with 4000 plants abloom June throughout the summer – a total of 50 special gardens. Its conservatory is far larger than the BBG – a consideration on rainy, cold, windy, snowy days.

NYBG focuses on Great Shows, the train show, orchid show, Chihuly – big themes with lots of entertainment, merchandise and crowds. With 13,000 plants having to be grown & cultivated for a show – with a philosophy of going over the top to attract crowds – the result can be pricey.

Like most other museums & public attractions in NYC NYBG gives a little. The grounds are free all day Wednesday and from 9-12 on Saturday morning. But no entry to the Conservatory where the shows are. Frankly, NYBG is the elephant in the Bronx’s living room: it draws from Manhattan – and apart from providing menial jobs ignores local yokels.

Membership makes economic sense. Entry on weekends is $28. Night shows are currently $35. Four visits recover the cost – and include a few perks. Seniors are $68/88 single/couple. Otherwise it’s $85/110.

Eating can be pricey too. The old cafeteria is now the ritzy Hudson Garden Grill where a ham, egg & cheese sandwich can run you $23 and appetizers range from a salad at $10 to asparagus at $17. Luckily there’s a kiddie snack shack {with beer & wine for parents!) and a pizza hut. Arthur Avenue is not far (187th and Arthur Avenue) but it’s a trek of 1/2 mile across Fordham University’s grounds to get there – but you can get a B&D train at 182-183rd Streets on the Grand Course to get back to the city.

NYBG is not far from Pelham Bay Park, three times the size of Central Park, with many paths and bikeways, right there on the sea. And not far from that is City Island – a piece of NYC history frozen in time.

Whereas BBG is accessible by subway, NYBG is accessible via MetroNorth from Grand Central or 125th, every hour on the hour only, and with a more expensive fare.

Membership at NYBG gets you visiting privileges at the BBG’s Japanese garden and greenhouses.

And of course there is the Queens Botanical  Garden. www.queeensbotanical.org.

There’s also the Staten Island Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on the grounds of Snug Harbor.

Wave Hill is located a few miles from Yankee Stadium. Its Kerlin Overlook gives 180 degree views of the Hudson. They have many programs, a small greenhouse, art shows – and though located in the north Bronx are a fun place to visit – especially if you have a car.

At the far end of brooklyn near the Verazano Bridge is the Narrows Botanical Garden on the Upper Bay in Brooklyn.  http://www.narrowsbg.org

The surprise garden in NYC is the 6BC, located as you’d imagine on 6th Street between B&C Avenues – a throwback from the days of the squatters and squalor of the LES. http://6bc.org Truly a delight especially for the neighbors who keep it going for whom it is an oasis.

And let’s not forget all the pocket parks in Manhattan itself many of which have artificial waterfalls in addition to the abundant sitting area and beautiful design and flowers galore. Plus the atriums especially in midtown but also in the financial district which encourage people to sit, play chess, and have a quiet conversation. An entire book has been written about these – and they prove you don’t have to have hundreds of acres to provide the pleasure and peace that a flower garden offers.

Lastly let’s not forget the promenades, notably the east river promenade especially from 80th Street up and past the bridge to Randall’s Island – itself a bike haven. And the wondrous bike and sports path that starts where the ferry goes to visit the Statue of Liberty all the way up the upper west side – a pleasure path that has kyack rental, trapeze practice, roller blading, biking, and pocket parks along the way.

A postscript: Cherry Blossoms are beautiful in both the BBG and NYBG parks of course but for that don’t forget Branch Brook park [www.branchbrookpark.org] a short 15” trip out the Holland Tunnel – for it has more cherry trees in a 1920s setting than all of Washington D.C: 4000, the largest collection of Japanese flowering trees in one location in the US. Its expanse of 360 acres stretches nearly 4 miles from US Rte 280 in Newark to Mill Street in Belleville