“For many New Yorkers, the Conservatory Garden is the most beautiful place in Manhattan,” opens Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry authors of the book, Garden Guide: New York City. With an opening statement like that, I had to see for myself. Of course I cannot speak for all New York tourists not to mention New Yorkers, but after visiting the Conservatory Garden, I hazard to guess Nancy and Susan are pretty much spot on.
Located in the northeast corner of Central Park, the Conservatory Garden is a jewel of unspoiled garden decadence. Its lush plantings, fountains, sculptural features and distinct garden style rooms show little if any hint of the thousands of visitors it receives each year.
The Conservatory Garden is named for the collection of glasshouses built in 1898 used for raising plants for the city’s parks. The financial crisis of the depression led to the removal of the houses and the new Conservatory Garden was installed, as part of the Work Projects Administration. And as many stories go, from large cities to small towns, financial and community support waned and the gardens fell into disrepair.
In the 80’s and 90’s a series of events and new designers breathed life into the garden.
The Conservatory Garden is divided into three distinct styles – French, Italian and English.
The center Italian garden features a wisteria pergola with a wonderful view of the garden's lawn and a quiet place to relax with a friend or escape with a book.
The large lawn is surrounded by clipped hedges of yews, a 12-foot-high jet fountain, and two crabapple allées. I can only imagine how enjoyable it must be in the spring to stroll under a canopy of pink and white blossoms!
The northern French-style garden features meticulously trimmed boxwoods that create year-round structure as well as the perfect backdrop for the garden’s spectacular seasonal displays of tulips in spring and chrysanthemums in autumn. In the center is the whimsical Three Dancing Maidens fountain by German sculptor Walter Schott.
My favorite of the three, the south garden, is designed in the style of an English perennial garden. You may hear this garden referred to as the Secret Garden. The reason being, the statue and pool within this garden is dedicated to Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden.