Botanical Garden Conservatory Ball Raises Record-breaking $2.2 Million

Entrance to gala
All photos Lieba Nesis

English philosopher Francis Bacon said, “God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” Tonight, I experienced firsthand the unadulterated beauty of nature which is paradoxically located smack in the middle of the Bronx.

Linda Miller & Martha Stewart
Linda Miller & Martha Stewart

The 250-acre Botanical Garden contains a variety of tropical, temperate, and desert flora consisting of over one million plants in extensive collections; and the glamorous crowd clad in gowns and tuxedos was there to absorb the magnificent surroundings at the 2019 Conservatory Ball.

Victor dE Souza, Jean Shafiroff and Lucia Hwong Gordon
Victor dE Souza, Jean Shafiroff and Lucia Hwong Gordon

Guests were also invited to preview the highly anticipated exhibition “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx” which showcases Burle Marx’s designs, and landscapes which manifest his passionate commitment to plant conservation.

Janice Becker, Fe Fendi and Lucia Hwong Gordon
Barbara Cirka, Fe Fendi and Lucia Hwong Gordon

There were socialites from Greenwich, Palm Beach and Manhattan who came to pay homage to this historic landmark including: Martha Stewart, Fe Fendi, Jean Shafiroff, Lucia Hwong Gordon and Georgina Bloomberg. They were also there celebrating Maureen Chilton who was stepping down as Chairman after nine years during which time the Garden’s unprecedented success and growth as both an iconic museum and an educational
institution reached unparalleled heights.

Larry Milstein
Larry Milstein

The record-breaking evening raised more than $2.2 million with funds being used to underwrite programs for the 300,000 children educated annually and for maintaining the 50 specialty gardens. The crowd which stretched out over a vast swath of territory fraternized with one another at one of the final gala events of the season.

Irina Benfeld, Katja Andersson, Tatiana Zemskova, Elena Vlasyuk, Katia Brody and Mariia Filonova
Irina Benfeld, Katja Andersson, Tatiana Zemskova, Elena Vlasyuk, Katia Brody and Mariia Filonova

Many of the lovely ladies appeared in floral gowns with hot pink the most popular color of the evening. For the relatively reasonable price of $1,500 guests were able to bask in the glorious landscape-reminiscent of the Golden Ages in Europe.

Left to Right: Ashley Simon, Betty Fox, Georgina Bloomberg, Becky Tanenbaum and Lili Buffett

The cocktail hour began at the magical hour of 7:30 PM just as the sun was setting and after rush hour had peaked. I wish charities that began events at the ungodly hour of 5:30 PM would take notice-if you cut down on speeches and fundraising you too could end at 10:30 PM, as this event did.

Gillian Miniter, Kitty Kempner, Claire O’Grady, Gillian Steel, Caroline Williamson and Tom Kempner

The evening was held in partnership with Northern Trust and sponsored by Calix. This is the major fundraising event of the year for the Garden and Chairmen Sasha Bass, Eaddo Kiernan, Alexandra Lebenthal, Gillian Miniter, Claire O’Grady, Deborah Royce, Gillian Steel, and Caroline Williamson stood on a pink carpet receiving excited guests as they arrived. Surprisingly, the night also attracted a significant group of younger attendees who were dancing and enjoying the festivities.

Patricia Chadwick, Deborah Royce and Michael Colopy
Patricia Chadwick, Deborah Royce and Michael Colopy

The dinner was held in the Conservatory Tent which contained lavish pink floral displays whose designs also covered the dance floor. The dinner of Branzino and salad was paradigmatic of the trend toward serving vegetarian at lavish black tie affairs.

Left to Right" Harry and Genie Burn, Jill and Alan Rappaport
Left to Right” Harry and Genie Burn, Jill and Alan Rappaport

The venue which abounded with fountains and trees as you headed from the cocktail hour to the dinner was so extraordinary that little needed to be done to ensure an enthusiastic reception; these jaded New Yorkers were clearly enthralled by the otherworldly atmosphere.

After a brief program, guests headed to the dance floor to partake in one of the last glorious nights of the New York social season.

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Lieba Nesis
Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

1 Comment
  1. Your writing and photography are wonderful. You capture the beauty and celebration of the event.

    I look forward to reading your reporting.

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