|Because NYC is my
homeland.... allow me to tell you about an amazing natural area that
every gardener and horticulturist really should visit.
There's the popular misconception
that the 843 acres of Central Park are the last remaining natural land
It is a green sanctuary within a huge, busy and noisy metropolis, but
this urban park is entirely man-made.
The Conservatory Garden is Central
Park’s formal garden. The Central Park Conservancy was founded in
1980, and is a private, nonprofit park conservancy that manages Central
Park under a contract with the City of New York and NYC Parks.
Showcasing gardens on 6 acres of amazing, tranquil beauty, in the upper
east and west sides of NYC. The Garden itself opened in 1937,
and is named for the glass conservatory that was built at this location
in 1899. Before that, the garden housed the large greenhouse used for
growing the plants for the Park’s landscapes.
Central Park is home to
approximately 18,000 trees. The garden is famous for plantings of
tulips, lilacs, crabapple trees, summer perennials, and fall
chrysanthemums. As a child growing up in NYC in
the 60's, Central Park was my favorite destination and refuge on a
Sunday (The Museum of Natural History was my second favorite). I
had many picnics in the Park as a child, and I enjoyed them while
sitting atop one of the Park's many big boulders. The noises and smells
of the city miraculously vanished.If you ever find yourself in The Big
Apple, be sure to visit the park's conservatory. Better yet, plan a
weekend in the city, and be sure to visit the Park and museums while
you're there. You'll need good walking shoes and a few hours. All day,
if you're visiting the entire park. It's very easy to get to from any
part of the city.
Don't Miss Strawberry
- I visit and pay my respects to
John Lennon every time i visit the Park. It's located on Central Park
West at West 72nd Street, near where John Lennon was murdered outside of
his home, the Dakota. The memorial is a triangular piece of land falling
away on the two sides of the park, and its focal point is a circular
pathway mosaic of inlaid stones, with a single word, the title of
Lennon's most famous song "Imagine". The mosaic, is in the
style of Portuguese pavement. It was created by Italian craftsmen and
was donated as a gift by the Italian city of Naples.
A "floral border"
surrounds Strawberry Fields. Along the borders of the area surrounding
the mosaic are benches which are endowed in memory of individuals
and are maintained by the Central Park Conservancy. Along a path, a
plaque lists the nations that contributed to building the memorial. Yoko
Ono, who still lives in The Dakota, contributed over a million dollars
for the landscaping and the upkeep endowment.
The mosaics at the heart of a series
of open and secret glades of lawn and glacier-carved rock outcroppings,
bounded by shrubs and mature trees and woodland slopes, are all
designated a "quiet zone". A woodland walk winds through edge
plantings between the glade-like upper lawn and the steep wooded slopes;
it contains native rhododendrons and hollies, Carolina allspice,
mountain laurel, viburnums, and jetbead.
Wild shrub roses and a mature pink Magnolias
flank the main walk. At the farthest northern tip of the upper
series of lawns enclosed by woodland are three dawn redwood trees that
lose their needles, but regain them every spring, an emblem of eternal
renewal. The trees can be expected to reach a height of 118 ft.
within 100 years, and eventually they will be visible from great
distances in the park.
The Conservatory Garden is composed
of three areas, each with a distinct design: the French-style North
Garden, the Italianate Center Garden, and the English-style South
The main entrance to the gardens is
marked by an ornate, wrought iron gate, known as the Vanderbilt Gate, which was
donated to the City by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, from the
mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.
Through the gate is the Center
Garden, influenced by Italian Renaissance gardens. Its symmetrical
design features a central lawn with a single jet fountain, behind which
is a semicircular pergola covered in wisteria. Beyond the
fountain, walk up stone steps on either side to find the curved pergola,
made of wrought iron and lined with benches that provide a beautiful
view toward Fifth Avenue. The stone walkway includes medallions
inscribed with the names of the original 13 states. In early May, the
wisteria perfumes the air with it's beautiful purple bloom. The lawn is
bordered by yew hedges and flanked with allées of crabapple trees,
which burst into pink and white blooms every spring.
The North Garden offers spectacular
seasonal displays of tulips each spring and Korean chrysanthemums in
autumn. At its center stands the Untermyer Fountain, featuring the Three
Dancing Maidens by German sculptor Walter Schott, which is
surrounded by an intricate French parterre garden. A
French parterre is a formal garden with low intricate plantings, divided
by footpaths, and surrounded by walls of English ivy. It is designed to
capture the feel of a small formal garden of the eighteenth century.
Photo below is an example of that garden style.
The South Garden is arranged in
planting beds in the style of an English perennial garden. It contains a
diverse array of plantings that bring interest and beauty to every
season, including bulbs, annuals, perennials, and numerous flowering
trees. This garden also features the Burnett Fountain, that stands at
one end of a waterlily pool.
The East Meadow Tree Walk - dozens
of species of trees, each with a unique identity. Signs on tree trunks
or nearby on the ground help visitors identify the various trees along
the path, giving walkers the opportunity to learn something new, while
they enjoy the walk towards the Park’s only formal garden. That walk
would take you approximately an hour.
More than 150 different annual
cultivars will bloom through mid-October in the South and North Gardens.
Plantings include the princess flower, a tropical shrub with large,
fuzzy silver-green leaves and royal purple flowers; and ornamental and
hybrid sages in a rainbow of colors.
In the South Garden, there are
several perennials, including the balloon flower, phlox in pink and
grasses; Japanese anemones and, native flowers such as
coneflower and Joe-Pye weed are the main attractants of butterflies and
other pollinators. Also in the South Garden is Burnett Fountain, with a
pool featuring a variety of summer-blooming waterlilies in pink, blue,
and green. Bright pink crape myrtle surround the Fountain. There are
also colorful hydrangeas and roses throughout the South Garden.
The Shakespeare Garden
-see the large photo at the
top of this page...
Shakespeare Garden is a four-acre landscape named for William
Shakespeare. It features more than 100 plants mentioned in Shakespeare's
works. The Garden is just steps away from the Delacorte Theater, home to
Shakespeare in the Park, a New York City summer tradition. To learn how
to design your own
version of a Shakespearean/Elizabethan Garden, visit this
In August and September, you can see
lilies, phlox, hibiscus, asters, roses, cyclamens, and dozens of other
flowers in a variety of colors. You'll see trumpet creeper, a vine with
bright red or orange tube-like flowers that attract hummingbirds. The
middle of the Garden blooms with white flowers of the sweet autumn
clematis on the bamboo fence. Its fragrance fills the entire garden. The
garden also includes 10 small bronze plaques that feature Shakespearean
Fairly new in the Conservatory. Its
name, an English word for “valley” amid dramatic rock outcrops that
are popular among Park visitors for climbing and exploring. The Dene
Slope, located along a steep hill on the west side of the landscape
known as the Dene, and the meadow is one of the area’s most prominent
features. The Central Park Conservancy has planted more than 50 species
of native wildflowers and grasses here, and the landscape serves as a
habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. A trail
provides access to the slope and rustic seating. The meadow was
completed in 2017 and t took many years to establish.
Nell Singer Lilac Walk
Along the north edge of the Sheep
Meadow, a narrow path winds through a small grove of lilac trees with
varieties from all over the world. Typically in bloom from late April
The North Meadow Butterfly
These gardens provide
habitat for the more than 50 species of butterflies that pass through
Central Park. Established in 2000, the four large planting beds feature
two species of milkweed (essential to caterpillars and butterflies at
all stages of life) and colorful and fragrant plant life that supports
moth, insect, and bird populations from spring through first frost. The
garden provides an opportunity for gardeners to study the flora that
attracts these pollinators. Plants are chosen for their value as a food
source, and as hosts for reproduction. Many are nectar-producing
perennials that bloom all season long.
The Great Monarch Butterfly
monarch butterflies head south to Mexico each winter and
return to Manhattan in early March. Almost half a million
monarchs head to Mexico to overwinter before their spring
return. This phenomenon, known as the great monarch butterfly
migration, starts in the lush meadows and woodlands of Central
Before winter sets in,
monarch butterflies leave Central Park for the Monarch
Butterfly Biosphere Preserve in central Mexico. After a
3,000-mile, two-month long journey, these monarchs ultimately
make their home in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak
forests, clustering on branches of pine and the sacred oyamel
trees. As spring approaches, monarchs come out of their
hibernation, and mate before a remarkable, multi-generational
The first group of
monarchs leaving Mexico stops to lay eggs on their journey
back before they die; those eggs then develop into the next
generation that continues north, repeating the same cycle. Four
generations of monarchs are born and die over their spring
return to North America. That fascinates me.
From spring through the
end of fall, areas like the Dene Slope, North Meadow Butterfly
Gardens, and Hallett Nature Sanctuary are filled with blooms
that provide nectar to fuel adult monarchs for their journey.
The summer months spent in
the Park are essential, as monarchs conduct the important work
of pollination. An essential evolutionary process, pollination
is largely dependent on the birds, bats, bees, and butterflies.
By moving the pollen that fertilizes plants and creates seeds,
pollinators ensure the next generations of plant life that
keep the Park in bloom, improving the environmental health and
happiness of New Yorkers. The Park is a bright green patch in
the middle of the City, which means butterflies and other
wildlife depend on it as a crucial stop to eat, lay
eggs, and rest between migration journeys. Read about growing
a garden to protect the Monarch Butterfly.
In the fall, many of Central
Park’s roughly 18,000 trees turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange,
red. It’s one of the Park’s most photogenic times of year.
Central Park's unique fall foliage displays are due to the days become
shorter, th trees will detect the oncoming winter not necessarily by
colder temperatures, but by the angle at which the rising and setting
sun hits their leaves. This has a special effect on Central Park's
trees, which are often obscured by many shadows from surrounding
buildings. As a result of the light and temperature gradient, the
trees often have a distorted sense of the seasons. Central Park
frequently experiences a later foliage turn than other parts of New
East Side of the Park at 60th-62nd
Colorful black cherry,
sawtooth oak, gray birch, and tupelo can be seen at the Pond and
in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. Hallet is the smallest of the
Park’s woodlands. Rustic features, such as a scenic overlook,
railings, and benches, that provide meditation spots and
breathtaking views of the Pond and south end of the Park.
Mall and Literary Walk
Mid-Park at 66th Street
The Mall is one of
Central Park’s most significant landscapes and
The Mall is the Park’s only intentional straight line. It
features a quadruple row of American elms, and is home to
one of the largest and last remaining stands of these trees
in North America. American elms form a cathedral-like canopy
above this wide pedestrian path, and in the fall, that
canopy will be bright yellow.
It is known as Literary
Walk because of the numerous statues of writers added there
in the 19th century. The
Park was designed as a social space. It was intended as a
place for all New Yorkers, regardless of class or
background, and the Mall was where they could all come
together to enjoy nature, art, and culture.
Mid-Park at 86th-96th
On one side of
the Reservoir, you’ll find the Kwanzan cherry trees,
which turn bronze and red in the fall. On the opposite
side, you’ll see the yoshino cherry trees, which
become yellow in the fall, and features a sharply
Visit the Ramble for
a dense explosion of color in fall. The Park’s most
popular woodland features colors of the red oak, sweet
gum, pin oak, sassafras, and more. The beautiful
three-stemmed black tupelo can be seen in Tupelo Meadow,
which is north of Azalea Pond.
If you're planning a visit in the
the official fall foliage map.
It tells you what trees (and colors) to find in Park locations.
Conservancy guides also lead Fall Foliage Walks from the Pool through
the North Woods’ Ravine.
While in NYC, you should also pay a
visit to The Cloisters - and
the beautiful medieval monastic gardens.
Central Park Conservatory
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