Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Historic New York City Garden

I’m always on the lookout for green spaces and discovered one just 40 minutes by subway from Grand Central Terminal in the Bronx. Built along a rocky hillside in Fort Tryon Park, the Heather Garden is home to some 500 different plant varieties, with flower blossoms that attract a host of creatures, from bees to butterflies.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gifted the entire park to New York City in 1935. He also bought up the land across the Hudson River in New Jersey, thereby preserving the bucolic views. The Olmsted brothers -- their father, Frederick Law Olmsted, was Central Park’s architect -- designed the garden, relying on an abundance of heather, low foliage that maintained the open views of the Hudson River.

Sadly, in the 1970s, the economic crisis transformed the tidy garden into a jungle. Ten years later, the park tamed the unruly foliage, and then renowned landscape designers Lynden B. Miller and Ronda M. Brands provided a much-needed refurbishment. More than 500 different varieties of plants grow in the garden; 99%  of the flowers are perennials.

It’s especially worth visiting this three-acre garden in the fall when Japanese Anemone, Autumn Crocus, Lion’s Tail, dahlias, and other blossoms provide a welcome sweep of brilliant colors; and also in the winter when heath carpets the landscape with bright pink hues. (Heathers are at their best in the summer.) 

On one of my recent visits, I prowled around, spying a chubby woodchuck -- one of several -- who I’m told keeps the weeds down, gazed up at the tall American elms rimming the garden (they are original plantings, along with the yew), noticed blossoms springing up in the cracks of granite boulders, and admired the spectacular views of the Palisades and the George Washington Bridge. Delicate roses -- the garden boasts 14 different varieties -- were still in bloom, as was Blue Mist Flower, Salvia, Beautyberry, and numerous other blooms that provided a tapestry of color, transforming a gloomy Sunday into a vibrant oasis.