Tortoise Strolls

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park

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I recently took a free tour of the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. Joe, who hails from Wisconsin, was the volunteer/gardener leading us on this tour.  His love for the garden showed as he went into detail about the annual and seasonal plantings, while winding us through the 6 acre maze. It was mainly a horticultural event with a few history facts tacked on.  We learned that this was the 2nd most dangerous spot in Central Park in the 1970’s.  Good to know that  criminals appreciate beauty as well.  A lot has changed since then, in terms of safety, and now this part of the park is dominated by wedding ceremonies, Women’s Luncheons of the Central Park Conservancy, and tourists.

It’s worth noting that perhaps the end of summer is not the best time to visit, nonetheless, the majestic year-round beauty of the Central Park’s only formal garden, keeps everyone’s senses on high alert.  If one wanted to be awed by nature at its very extreme, then it would be worth to visit at the end of May when the wisteria blooms. Not to be missed are the crabapple trees that come into their own around the same time, with blush pink that fades to white.

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Central Park

The Garden’s main entrance is through the Vanderbilt Gates located at 5th Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets.  These gates were made in Paris in 1894. They later  graced the Vanderbilt mansion on 5th Avenue and 58th Street before being donated and installed in 1939 at their present location. Once you enter you are immediately confronted with the Italian Garden, one of the three gardens that make up the Conservancy Garden. The other two being the French and English gardens. The Italian Garden includes the great expanse of lawn, the central fountain and the surrounding hedges bordered by two allees of crabapple trees. The steps at the western most end of the garden lead one up to the pergola, which is covered with wisteria. There are  13 medallions located on the walkway underneath the pergola. They are inscribed with the names of the 13 original states.  When you’re perched up high on top of this walkway, you are confronted with an amazing view of the garden as well as the Cardinal Cook Health Care building, just across the street on 5th Avenue. It has this Spanish/Florida style, confusing many into thinking they’re not in the middle of NYC, but rather on some grand Palm Beach estate.

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The north side of the garden is known as the French Garden. It includes a very pleasant fountain topped with a statue of “Three Dancing Maidens” which was once  part of the Samuel Untermyer estate in the Bronx. This part of the garden is known for it’s seasonal display of tulips, about 20,000 in all. Many of the flowers are donated by the public and later given back.  Come late autumn, the public is invited to pull out the mums and take them for themselves.  A win win situation.

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The southern part is known as the English Garden. In its center is a sculpture by Bessie Potter. It’s a tribute to Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of the Secret Garden. When I visited there were a couple of painters enjoying the serenity of this intimate spot. Hostas, calla lilies and many other fragrant flowers surround the fountain in the middle and add to the sensory overload. It’s no wonder why artists choose this spot.

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Written by agnesbstanton

September 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Parks, Upper East Side

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