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Paradise Garden Festival gets tropical in the dead of winter in Oyster Bay

Steel drummer Robert Mitrea of Jericho helps lend

Steel drummer Robert Mitrea of Jericho helps lend a tropical air at the greenhouse at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. Credit: Marisol Diaz

It’s a day born from a dream.

The fourth Paradise Garden Festival, hosted by Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park on Sunday, Jan. 15, creates a sultry escape from the Long Island winter.

“The idea of setting up a Garden of Eden — an earthly paradise that mocks the winter scene outside — is an age-old dream which became possible in 19th century England with the invention of iron and glass buildings heated by coal stoves,” says Jennifer Lavella, Planting Fields director of marketing and events. “Private winter gardens were built for the pleasure of wealthy owners, to entertain their family and friends.”

The Paradise Garden Festival — a free daylong celebration that features live music and activities for the entire family in all areas of the 409-acre park — entertains upward of 3,000 people each year.

Banana, cocoa, palm and other trees, colorful orchids, begonias, cactuses and ferns from around the world will be on display in the ground’s main greenhouse.


How the Paradise Garden Festival made its way to Planting Fields Arboretum was simply a matter of its greenhouse’s effect.

“A few years ago, we decided it would be great to have an indoor event for people to come to the park in January,” Lavella says. Henry B. Joyce, executive director of Planting Fields Foundation, created the event to bring visitors to the park during the offseason, specifically to the Main Greenhouse, which is a destination in itself. Originally known as the Hibiscus House, it’s one of the last surviving examples of a private winter garden or “hot house” in the Northeast, Lavella says, and it is typical of the sort first constructed by the British in the 1830s.


Of course, the experience isn’t all about the plants — the steel pans come into play, too.

Steel drum sounds, performed live by Long Island-based musician Robert Mitrea, are a staple at the Paradise Garden Festival.

“Steel drum music is added to lend a tropical feel as visitors walk through the main greenhouse,” Lavella says. “Although it is winter and cold outside, visitors can step into the tropical paradise of our main greenhouse, and, for a bit, feel like they are in a warm, bright and tropical place.”

Additionally, pianist Jack Kohl will perform at Coe Hall and Acoustically Correct, a guitar duo specializing in classic rock, ’60s pop and tribute music, will be at Camellia House.

The cafe will have sandwiches, soups, pastries, beer, wine and specialty roast coffees for sale.

Paradise Weekend

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15 (Snow date Sunday, Jan. 22) 1395 Planting Fields Rd., Oyster Bay

INFO 516-922-9210,



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