There’s a secret garden in Central Park. Well, maybe it’s not a secret but it is located away from most of the park’s famous sights. Plus it does have a statue honoring Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden. The garden in question is the Conservatory Garden, a beautiful six-acre formal garden in the northeast corner of Central Park.
Conservatory Garden Central Park
When Central Park was conceived by designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, they thought of the park primarily as a natural space. They generally disliked the idea of formal gardens with geometric patterns of plants and paths. That’s why most of Central Park is meandering hills and lakes. But here at 5th Avenue and 105th Street, the designers relented and included a popular greenhouse of exotic plants. The huge E-shaped greenhouse would survive until 1934. The greenhouse was deteriorating at that time, however, and so it was demolished to be replaced by the current three-part garden.
If you are entering the garden from within the park, it’s a very sudden transition. The rocks and hills of the park suddenly descend into a low valley where the garden lies. In the Conservatory Garden Central Park suddenly feels like grand European palace grounds. That’s probably why it’s such a popular place for weddings. There are entrances to the Conservatory Garden from both the north and south. Or if you’re enjoying the museums on 5th Avenue, you can enter the Conservatory Garden directly from the street through the impressive Vanderbilt Gate. This ornate entryway once stood in front of the Vanderbilt Mansion further down 5th Avenue on 58th Street. When the house was torn down, the driveway gate was saved and later installed in front of the new Conservatory Garden when it opened in 1934.
As you enter Conservatory Garden, the Italian Garden is immediately in front of you. It features a pristine green lawn with a jetted fountain. The Italian Garden is incredibly beautiful in spring; the paths on either side of the garden are filled with pink and white crabapple blossoms, and the terrace behind is shaded by wisteria blooms. To the right is the French Garden, which is filled with intricate flower beds, the tantalizing aromas of lavender, and Walter Schott‘s dancing maidens sculpture. All the way to the left is the cozier English Garden. Here there are beds of spring perennials and flowering trees like Magnolias and Dogwoods. This is also where you’ll find The Secret Garden statue of Mary and Dickon sitting amidst a decorative pool of flowering lily pads. Conservatory Garden Central Park is a dream-like spot for both avid green thumbs and anyone who appreciates a well-trimmed garden.
The Conservatory Garden is fenced off and is closed at dusk, so get there before dark to appreciate the blooms and you’ll have a quiet, colorful moment away from the gray hustle of New York’s streets.
Featured image by Shawn Lynch