Central Park’s Conservatory Garden in the Spring

This is a post that is almost out of season (after all, Spring is over in a matter of days), but my busy schedule during this past semester meant that I never posted about a delightful walk I took several weeks ago in Central Park. Before we turn to Summer I thought I would revisit it, bringing you along with me this time.

One thing I love about Central Park is its vast size – if I fancy a long trek, I can explore for hours. If I have the time, I won’t start at the southern end of the park, at 59th Street. That part of the park is too busy, too close to hotels and tourist attractions. Most tourists travel only so far into the park, making those southern paths crowded in good weather. Often, I’m in the mood for a more introspective walk and seek the quiet of the park’s northern end instead. Today, we have the time so let’s head north. Let’s start with the Conservatory Garden, which we last explored in Autumn.

The Conservatory Garden in Spring is a feast for the eyes. After the cold dreariness of Winter, the greens appear more vibrant. Leaves are unfolding on the trees, each variety a slightly different shade. The yew tips are a bright chartreuse, in contrast with the darker old growth. The varying greens provide a backdrop for the Spring blooms we’ll discover along our way, some delicate, even tiny, while others bold and bright.

First we come to the lavender-tinged wisteria pergola, with the yew shrubs fanned out below.

To either side of the pergola stretch espalier trees, their twisted trunks and branches stretched across brick walls.

But now we’re on a search for flowers. Let’s see what we discover along the way. I’m not sure what these are, but I enjoyed the tight buds and pure white petals.

Here’s some just-blooming azaleas, their magenta flecks reminding me somehow of freckles.

And some Delaware Valley white azaleas, as well.

On to more flowers. We find daffodils.

Bright orange tulips.

Entire beds of tulips bordered by grape hyacinth, a riot of colors. Upon closer inspection, the tulips show the effects of the elements, but from a distance they are still glorious.

Here’s a favorite of mine, the lilacs. The sweet fragrance brings back memories of childhood, when we had lilacs of every color – white, pale lavender, and darker purple. I stop, remembering those simple days when my sister and I played outside next to the lilacs for hours, decorating our dolls and mud-pies with the flowers. Are you breathing in the scent with me?

Now on to another of my favorite, the alium or ornamental onion. These are in various stages of bloom, making them very interesting indeed.

How about a few more? Some delicate Siberian Bugloss peaking up through the leaves.

And the cushion spurge, its bright yellow flowers almost glowing.

Let’s step out of the Conservatory Garden and take a stroll towards the Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy Reservoir. There are few flowers along this route, and we have to dodge cyclists and runners periodically, but it is a peaceful, overcast day. There are some trees blooming in the distance to admire along the way.

Soon we reach the reservoir and are standing on the edge of the one-way path around its waters. What beautiful views! Look closely – there are some Japanese cherry trees blooming on the other side, and we have some impressive perspectives of the city skyline, looking first westward to the Upper West Side and then south towards Midtown.

Finally, as we head to one of the paths leading out of Central Park, we stumble upon this monument to former New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel. Curious as to why Mitchel, among so many mayors in the city’s history, had been honored with a monument, I did a little research. I discovered that Mitchel served as mayor from 1914 to 1917 and was the youngest mayor in the city’s history when elected at age 34. In a time of rampant corruption in city politics, Mitchel gained a reputation for being a reformer. Once the United States entered the First World War, Mitchel enlisted in the Army Air Corps. (He had just lost his reelection bid.) Unfortunately, Mitchel was killed in a tragic training accident in Louisiana in 1918 – he fell from his plane to the ground some 500 feet below.

And with that brief history lesson, our exploration is over for the day. I think this walk is a good one for Jo’s Monday Walks, don’t you? If you have checked out Jo’s blog, I recommend it!

Central Park’s North End

As much as I love the city, sometimes I need to spend some time in a quieter, slower green space (especially during stressful times like it’s been recently here). Thankfully, that’s possible to find even in the midst of the city. There are some great parks throughout the city, but last weekend I wanted to see if the leaves were changing in Central Park. Most people who visit Central Park visit the southern end of the park (and I’ve previously written about that part of the park here), but the northern end is a hidden gem. That’s where we decided to head this time.

Central Park stretches from 59th Street all the way to 110th Street, and we headed towards the entrance to the park at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue, on the east side of the park. Here, visitors can walk through the Vanderbilt Gate into the Conservatory Garden, one of my favorite sections of Central Park.

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Even though it is Autumn, the conservatory garden still offers a variety of colorful flowers – all with a fall vibe.

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And there are also two special fountains located at opposite parts of the garden. First, there’s this delightful fountain, known as the Burnett Fountain, which can be found in the South Garden. The fountain is a tribute to children’s book author Frances Hodgson Burnett and is surrounded by a lily pond.

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In the North Garden there’s also this vibrant, joyful fountain, known as the Untermyer Fountain.

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Throughout all of Central Park, including the Conservatory Garden, you can find benches where you can sit and take a break. They are great locations for people-watching (and dog-watching, as many locals walk their dogs in Central Park). Many of the benches have been sponsored, and small plaques give information about the sponsorship. (In fact, there’s an entire Instagram account dedicated entirely to sponsored benches: @centralparkbenches)

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The formality of the Conservatory Gardens is restful and appeals to my orderly mind, but the walk doesn’t have to end there. If you continue further north, you will soon stumble upon the Harlem Meer. Across the water sits the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, which offers a variety of special park programming.

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After meandering around the Harlem Meer, if you keep walking you can explore the shaded North Woods. This is one of the hillier parts of the parks, and it periodically offers small clearings with rocks, fallen trees, or benches to rest on. Eventually, you’ll crest the top of the Great Hill, an open area where local New Yorkers play a variety of sports. It’s fun to sit and people watch, and through the trees it’s possible to spy some of the iconic apartment buildings on the city’s Upper West Side. Continue along the path traveling south once again, and there are more waterways, quaint wooden bridges and benches, and fall foliage.

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I think this post would be a good one for Jo’s Monday Walks. If you haven’t checked out Jo’s blog, I recommend it!