From the moment you enter through one of “the gates” of Central Park, mental notes take shape of spots that are unique and special. After photographing, volunteering, and studying the park for many years, I thought I’d share a few of the most picturesque locations, in no particular order, that religiously put their best foot forward each Spring. Of course, with the attempt to always please the eyes, the plethora of trees, shrubs, and flowers bloom at different times throughout this season.
As you approach Sheep Meadow from West Drive, look across to the opposite side, directly east, at the massive Cherry blooms which appear to be one, but actually are two interconnected. A favorite picnic spot, you might (depending on when they bloom) witness the wafting scent of fragrant varieties of lilacs just on the other side of the perimeter fence – the Nell Singer Lilac Walk.
Cherry Hill, as its name suggests, boasts an orchard-like variety on the hill overlooking The Lake and Bow Bridge. The image shown below, was a serendipitous moment for me because after a horrid snowstorm the following Winter, one of the branches that helped to create what I referred to as “the eye” in my photograph was destroyed. It’s both a blessing and a curse, as images frozen in time cannot always be recreated.
The Carousel is beautifully framed on the north-eastern side by Eastern Redbuds, dear to my heart as Pete and my first home always had one gracing our front yard. I especially love the way tiny buds pop up along the trunks. Look for them also north of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on a walkway leading into the park from Fifth Avenue and along the entrance to the Diana Ross playground – you can’t miss this burst of fuchsia color.
Forsythia, which has been referred to by many as the official flower of Brooklyn, is prevalent throughout the park, but none more so than in front of Cat Rock, a stunning chunk of Manhattan Schist overlooking Wollman Rink – which of course always conjures up romantic, tragic images of Love Story! Yellow is known for being such a happy color and forsythia is indeed a most resplendent shade.
Conservatory Gardens, a six-acre garden in the northern part of the park along Fifth Avenue at about 104th St., actually consists of three smaller gardens – English, Italian, and French. The magnificent donated iron Vanderbilt Gate (which once graced their mansion where Bergdorf’s now stands at 58th St.) was made in Paris in 1894. Each garden is renown in its own right. The English Garden is home to copious varieties of bulbs, Magnolias, and a slope of woodland plants – I quite fancy the Muscari a.k.a. Grape Hyacinths – which really isn’t a hyacinth, although it does resemble a miniature one and emanates a grape juice fragrance. The Italianate Garden’s large rectangular, lush lawn is flanked by the most fetching allee of Crabapple trees popular with visitors from all over the world. The western end boasts a spectacular elevated Wisteria Pergola which is quite persnickety about exactly when it chooses to bloom (May or June) Spiraea Thunburgii below, and in front of the landscape – a lovely fountain. Last but not least, is the French-style Garden, whose focal point is The Dancing Ladies a.k.a. Untermyer Fountain. It is surrounded by layers consisting of parterres of germander, an ellipse of Japanese holly, multi-colored tulips, Saucer Magnolias, Spiraea Thunbergii, and Lilacs – a magnificent “feast for the eyes!”
Historically, the Jackie O. Reservoir, covering 106 acres and holding 1,000,000,000 US gallons of water, used to distribute NYC’s water supply; now it just provides water for The Pool and Harlem Meer. What enhances its 1.58-mile jogging track and bridal path around it (who doesn’t recall scenes from Marathan Man and Sex and the City), is the magnificent showcase of double pink Yoshino cherries (Prunus x yedoesis) on the east side, a gift from Japan, and the Kwanzan cherries (Prunus serrulata) along the west side. Be aware they do not usually bloom at exactly the same time. The reservoir is one of the main ecological sanctuaries in the park – home to more than twenty species of waterbirds other than the familiar Canadian Geese and Mallards – a popular venue for birdwatchers, one may see Coots, Herons, Egrets, Grebes, Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads, Mergansers, Coots, Northern Shovelers, Cormorants, Loons, Wood Ducks, American Black Ducks, and Gadwall.
Encompassing 843 acres, Central Park is your oyster!! A “pearl” in the crown and heart of New York City!! I encourage you, one of the 40 million visitors, the “flaneur ,” or passionate wanderer, to discover your ideal niche and lose yourself in the magical wonder created by brilliant landscape architects and visionaries – Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux – and the not to be overlooked gifted architect Jacob Wrey Mould and horticulturist Ignaz Pilat.
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Let me know where you find flowering Dogwood like this in the park.