Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Planting Fields Arboretum

September 13, 2013

I seem to find more and more places to explore in Long Island these days. I had never heard of this place until I caught sight of a sign while passing through Oyster Bay one weekend. Planting Fields is considered a State Historic Park, but definitely not a place that I would normally think of as a park. It is more of a horticultural center that happens to be on a vast tract of grassy fields, complete with a mansion to drool over. The property was founded by English tycoon William Robertson Coe, a maritime insurer whose company happened to do the insurance for the Titanic, among other ships. His wife was an heiress of the oil industry.  Certainly, this kind of money allowed for a very impressive abode on the historic Gold Coast of Long Island.

The grounds are 409 acres, but much of what you want to see is a walkable distance from the estate. There are two greenhouses. The main one has various wings that lead you through a sensory overload of colorful vegetation.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

The other greenhouse, called Camelia House, houses camellias, of course. Sadly, they are not in bloom this time of year so all you see are just the green parts of the plants.

Nearby, there are a number of gardens to stroll through. One garden that was particularly beautiful was the dahlia garden. They come in so many different colors – more than I would have imagined!

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Coe Hall, the mansion on the property, is a stunner with a dark, gothic interior and beautiful plasterwork everywhere. The various kinds of glass panes on the windows are also worth noting from room to room.  There are only two guided tours per day. We made do without a tour and wandered at leisure.  In some of the rooms, a staffer kindly told us about the history of the items within.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Oh how I would love to live in a place where I can summon a butler (or maid) with the press of a button!  These were in one of the bedrooms by the door.

Planting Fields Arboretum

The park is open from 9 to 5 every day. There are two separate fees – the entrance fee is $8 per car, while the fee for the house is $3.50 a person. Admission to the grounds is free in the winter. If music concerts are your thing, they host  the occasional  concert on the grounds – visit their events page for specific dates. No bikes are allowed.

Old Westbury Gardens

May 31, 2013

Here is another grand old estate in Long Island for you to get lost in. Old Westbury Gardens has the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was owned by the Phipps, a family that made its fortune in shipping. The mansion sits on 200 acres filled with woods, formal gardens, a lake, and a pond. We were very impressed by the layout of everything.

The walled garden is one of the largest I’ve ever seen. You enter through ornately-carved gates and find yourself surrounded by flowers of every shape and color.

Old Westbury Gardens

Old Westbury Gardens

At one end is a waterlily pond, but sadly no frogs and not too much in the way of waterlilies either, but that didn’t detract from the grandeur of the scenery.

Old Westbury Gardens

If you walk up Linden Alley, you will catch your first glimpse of the house. I could see myself playing out a scene from the Great Gatsby here!

Old Westbury Gardens

Old Westbury Gardens

This is the view of Linden Alley from the house balcony. They were setting up a photo shoot that involved a gramophone, a grand piano, and live pigs. Any wagers on what they were shooting?

Old Westbury Gardens

Old Westbury Gardens

The house itself was furnished with pieces of the period. They were exhibiting wedding dresses from different periods in each room. I overheard one lady say she didn’t understand why there were so many brides in the house. No picture taking is allowed inside, but I got this one picture of the sunroom before I found that out. The sunroom was quite easily half the size of my apartment.

Old Westbury Gardens

When you exit the house to the west, this is the view you get of the beautiful lake. There are geese and ducks in the reflecting pool beyond.

Old Westbury Gardens

As the name implies, this place is in Old Westbury, Long Island. It is a 30-45 minute drive from Manhattan. From April 29th to October 31st, it is open every day except Tuesdays, from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm (the house opens at 11:00 am). There are house tours at 11am and 2pm. Admission for the house and grounds is $10 per person. No dogs or bikes are allowed. For more information about events that are held here or to do wedding photography, you should visit their website.

The High Line, Section 2

July 3, 2011

Section 2 of the High Line opened with much fanfare about a month ago.  It adds 10 blocks of new green space to the tracks, stretching from 20th to 30th St.  Here are some of the views headed north.

These wooden steps were featured in a great musical ad campaign for the new section before it opened. It got me pretty psyched, actually. Here is the video.
High Line, Section 2

This is the much-touted picnic lawn that is unique to Section 2. Wedged between buildings on either side, it doesn’t offer much in the way of views.  I wouldn’t call it a destination picnic spot, but if you happen to be in the area, it is a comfy resting place for people-watching. The only reason why it is empty is because it is off-limits for now.
High Line, Section 2

Overall, the walkways mimicked the old section. Take a careful look at the plants along the way – some of them are quite striking.  It’s odd to know that many were native to the city before any of us were born.  There are some that I have never seen before.
High Line, Section 2

High Line, Section 2

High Line, Section 2

The elevated walkover in the middle of this new section is another unique feature to this section. This is not the best depiction of it, but you can see that there are plants growing below you. Eventually, some of them will provide shade.
High Line, Section 2

There is a viewing station of the cross-town traffic at 26th St.  If I had to choose between this station and the one in Section 1, I would park myself in the other one.  This one feels more cramped.
High Line, Section 2

If you are thirsty from all that walking, fear not.  The new beer garden at the end of the line, aptly named The Lot, will probably satisfy everyone.  Just be warned that the line to get in can be long.  I opted instead to check out a nearby attraction called Rainbow City. The eye-popping wonder of a park is here temporarily to celebrate the opening of the new section.  It is closing this weekend, so if you would like to watch adults and kids grapple with massive balloons and have a go at it yourself, check it out before it closes on July 5th!
High Line, Section 2

High Line, Section 2

Section 2 starts at 20th St and 10th Ave and ends at 30th St. There are also access points at 23rd, 26th, and 28th St.  The entire park is open from 7am to 11pm. No dogs or bikes are allowed.

Jackson Heights Garden Tours

May 15, 2011

Jackson Heights was the first planned garden community in the US. Many of the pre-war garden apartment co-op buildings in the neighborhood were built in the roaring 20’s by one developer.  The developer’s vision was to provide a quiet, suburban lifestyle for middle to upper middle class families from Manhattan.  This vision included private block-long gardens or parks encased in each building.  It is hard to believe now, but this neighborhood had a country club atmosphere, complete with a golf course!  The golf course is no more, but thankfully, the buildings and gardens survived. The buildings are currently located in a designated NYC historic district.

Most of the gardens cannot be seen from the sidewalk.   These hidden gems are open to the public only one weekend a year, in what has now become known as the Jackson Heights Garden Tours.  The tours usually cover eight or nine gardens.  Some gardens are more carefully cultivated than others, but they are all beautiful in their own way.  I don’t know how well-known these tours are outside of Queens, but they are not to be missed by anyone in the city.  You may think you know Jackson Heights by having eaten at Jackson Diner and having strolled down the rest of that block with all the Indian saris and jewelery shops, but you have not really seen its other facets without having gone on a tour of the historic district.

It doesn’t make sense for me to do the tour and then do a post about it after the fact, since I want to get you excited about doing a tour yourself.  Instead, I will present you with pictures I took from a tour I did in 2005.  This should give you a sense of what is in store for you.  Hopefully you will not get too much garden envy  ^_^

* Please excuse the overexposure on these pics.  I didn’t have much in the way of camera skills back then!

The Belvedere garden has a more casual, grassroots feel to it.
JH garden tour- Belvedere 3

The Chateau garden has more of a manicured look, complete with stone benches and a cute little fountain (not pictured).
JH garden tour- Chateau 7

The Elm Court garden is a big lawn.  You just want to run zigzag amongst the trees!
JH garden tour- Elm Court 1

The Hampton Court garden had a lot of wildflowers, making it feel more like a free spirit.  It also has an extensive lawn (not pictured).
JH garden tour- Hampton Court 8

The Hawthorne Court garden also has its own lawn space.  Do I sound like a broken record now?
JH garden tour- Hawthorne Court 1

Due to the configuration of trees, the Linden Court garden is very shady and feels more secluded than the others.
JH garden tour- Linden Court 3

The Towers garden is, of course, known for its towers.  It is secondarily known for its spooky griffins that guard the gates (not pictured).  I am not sure if anything special happens among the columns on midsummer’s night.  If you really want to know, you will have to become a resident!
JH garden tour- Tower 5

Note: These pictures from 2005 are probably not exact representations of how the gardens look today, but they should be similar enough.  You have to factor in that some gardens have evolved over time based on residents’ tastes.

The tour on June 18th is self-guided.  The gardens are open to the public from 12pm to 4pm.  You will need to purchase a $10 ticket to get a map.  You can buy tickets on the morning of June 18th in front of the Community Church at 81st St and 35th Ave, or you can buy tickets beginning June 1st at Espresso 77 (35-57 77th St) or at Beaudoin Realty Group (78-27 37th Ave, Suite 5, Second Floor) on weekdays from 11am to 5 pm.

The tour on June 19th is led by a guide and will cover a walk around the historic district as well as some of the gardens.  The starting point is at 12pm in front of the Community Church. Tickets are $10 for this tour as well.  Due to its popularity, the escorted tour requires a ticket purchased in advance.

If you want to do the tours on both days, it is only $15 total.  The proceeds from the ticket sales benefit the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, which, among other things, brightens up the sidewalks each spring with flowers planted beneath the trees.

The raindate for the tours is June 25th.

The quickest way to get to the starting point for each tour is to take the 7 train to the 82nd St station and walk north from there until you hit 35th Ave.

Narrows Botanical Gardens

October 1, 2010

This garden, composed of multiple separate gardens, would never have been on my radar if not for a two sentence description in Time Out NY.  I don’t remember the description anymore, but the fact that this obscure garden existed outside my realm of knowledge was intriguing enough for a look-see.

The first thing you notice about the garden is that its 4+ acres stretches out next to the East river like a belt, more narrow than wide.   The river views are not that impressive, and neither is the noise from the highway next to it, but if you look more closely, you will admire the skill and effort of the volunteers who single handedly maintain this garden.

Here are some of the different gardens that you’ll find.

Narrows Botanical Garden

Narrows Botanical Garden

Narrows Botanical Garden

Some paths around the gardens.

Narrows Botanical Garden

Narrows Botanical Garden

There is a large lawn in the middle of the garden. I saw some people with lawn chairs sitting and chatting.

Narrows Botanical Garden

There’s also a Zen garden.

Narrows Botanical Garden

I wouldn’t say this garden is a destination.  Its size merits a half hour leisurely stroll from end to end, and that is being generous.  However, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, it may be worth a visit.  The garden is located in Bay Ridge and is more easily accessible by car.  Take the Belt Parkway to Exit 1 – 67th Street, right at light onto Ridge Boulevard, right onto Bay Ridge Avenue.  Go down Bay Ridge Avenue to Shore Parkway, then turn left.

Wave Hill

July 2, 2010

Unlike other public gardens in the city, Wave Hill can boast of having housed a good share of famous people since the late 1800’s.  Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Arturo Toscanini once lived at Wave Hill House on separate occasions.  Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin also came here to explore its natural beauty.  It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that this place is perfect for relaxation and contemplation, with sweeping views of the Palisades and the Hudson River.  Over the years, the grounds were built up and reshaped to take advantage of the scenery. Today, it’s a stunning testament to centuries-old preservation.

You will want to explore several sights here.  As you enter, you will come upon the pergola overlook ahead of you. This area in particular is very popular for weddings.

Wave Hill

This is the view looking back at the pergola.  It’s pretty, but the better view is in the other direction.  There are many lawn chairs you can plop yourself down on.
Wave Hill

Wave Hill House is to your right down a short path.  Sometimes they host concerts inside, plus art and gardening workshops.
Wave Hill

If you’re feeling in need of cooling down, you may want to tackle one of the shady trails to the north of the House. They’re a bit rough in some places, so be careful with your footing.   If you persevere, you will be rewarded with a nice woodland gazebo.

Wave Hill

Moving south back towards the entrance, you will find several greenhouses.  This one, called Alpine House, looked intriguing with its large bonsai-like tree.

Wave Hill

Right outside the greenhouse is a varied collection of cacti that grow right on and between the rocks.

Wave Hill

Wave Hill

My favorite spot in this whole garden, however, is the aquatic garden bordered by shady pergolas on three sides.

Wave Hill

Wave Hill

Wave Hill

On the day I was there, I was lucky enough to find a big fat frog sitting on a lily pad and taking advantage of the shade.

Wave Hill

Wave Hill is located at West 249th Street and Independence Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.  You can take the Metro-North to Riverdale Station or the A or 1 train to West 242nd St.  A free shuttle provides a pick up at both places.  Click here for the shuttle schedule and for directions by car.  The garden is open Tuesdays through Sundays and stays open from 9:00 to 5:30 during the warmer months and from 9:00 to 4:30 during the colder months.   Admission is $8 for adults, but the fee is waived if you go on Tuesdays or Saturdays before noon.

The Chinese Scholar’s Garden

June 11, 2010

A relative newcomer to the city, the Chinese Scholar’s Garden opened in 1999 as the only garden of its kind in the country. It was designed as a typical scholar’s garden from the Ming Dynasty. The layout, attention to detail, and overall atmosphere of the place is amazing. You really feel like you’ve been transported to China. Let’s face it, there are few reasons one would visit Staten Island. This one is worth your time.

One of the most thoughtful touches to this garden is that it reveals itself slowly. There are layers to this place as you keep discovering another entrance to walk through and another new part of the garden to explore.

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Chinese Scholar's Garden

The pavillions on the grounds are also worth a peek inside. Some have antique furniture inside.
Chinese Scholar's Garden

An interesting architectural detail are these “leaky” windows scattered throughout. Their purpose is to “leak” the view from the other side to make one anticipate the visit to this other scenery.
Chinese Scholar's Garden

The slow-moving fish lend a tranquil air to the garden.
Chinese Scholar's Garden

The Chinese Scholar’s Garden is located inside the Staten Island Botanical Garden at Snug Harbor Cultural Center- 1000 Richmond Terrace (between Tysen Street and Snug Harbor Road). The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Admission to the Staten Island Botanical Garden is free, but the Chinese Scholar’s Garden has a separate fee of $5. Although I visited in the spring, it is probably better to see this place in the fall, when the trees provide a fiery contrast against the white walls. The best way to get here is by car. Since the directions will vary widely by where you’re coming from, you should use google maps to plan your route.

Bryant Park

May 28, 2010

When I’m in the mood to hide myself in a beautiful park, but still want to feel the energy of the city around me, this is the one I turn to.  Its lawn is a vibrant green come springtime, and you can choose to either sit on the side and ponder its perfection or wade into its deep vastness.

The park takes on a certain hushed tone at dusk.  That is my favorite time to go. The lampposts begin to turn on, casting shadows among the cafe chairs, the carousel whirls with a carnivalesque brightness, and the lawn takes on a glow as a number of spotlights take up their calling from a nearby building.

Bryant Park

At night, the nearby buildings start twinkling like stars.
Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue.   Basically behind the main branch of the New York Public Library with the lions in front.  The park puts on many hats throughout the year, hosting fashion shows, ice rinks, and movie screenings.  Click here for a calendar of events.  I just looked at it for the first time and realized they give birding tours.  Who knew?

NY Botanical Garden

April 9, 2010

I would be remiss if I didn’t cover this garden as well after covering the one in Brooklyn.  Located in the Bronx, the NY Botanical Garden is about six times as large as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Among the well-manicured landscaping, it has sections dedicated to certain plants and flowers.  The glasshouse Conservatory on the grounds hosts changing exhibits and is a well-known choice for weddings.  The great thing about this garden is that it houses a 50-acre native (virgin) forest.  You can, and should, do an easy one-way hike through it using a map that you pick up at the entrance.  The hike takes about one and a half hours.  I wouldn’t even call it a hike.  It’s a stroll. 

The famous glasshouse with lily pond:

Manicured gardens

NY Botanical 025

NY Botanical 039

Although educational, sometimes the signage gets a little ridiculous.

NY Botanical 041

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses…

NY Botanical 047

…and maybe spot a frog before you leave.
NY Botanical 052

The NY Botanical Garden is located at Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road.  It is open every day except Monday, from 10am to 6pm.  There are exceptions on certain dates.  Admission is $6 for the grounds.  Rotating exhibits cost extra.  To get there by subway, take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd Station.  From the station exit, take the Bx 26 bus east to the Garden’s Mosholu Gate entrance (or) walk eight blocks down the hill on Bedford Park Blvd to the end (approximately 20 minutes).  Turn left onto Kazimiroff Blvd and walk one block to Mosholu Gate entrance.  If you’re driving, parking is $12.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden- Cherry Blossoms

April 2, 2010

The city’s two main botanical gardens are a great way to smell the roses, figuratively and literally, with just the swipe of a Metrocard.  When it comes to seasonal events, however, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden wins out each spring with its colorful display of cherry blossoms.  The cherry blossoms are already blooming, so probably in the next 2 weeks, you will see the full spectrum of pink descend upon the garden! Pack your camera and go! Or, if you want to wait a bit, the garden hosts a weekend festival called Sakura Matsura each year at this time.  This year, the festival is on May 1 and 2.  The festival is more than just cherry blossoms.  It highlights the more popular aspects of Japanese culture, with music and dance performances, flower arrangements, and tea ceremonies, among other things.   There are also workshops for kiddies.  Here are a few pics of the festival taken a few years ago.

IMG_1530

This parade is not to be missed.  Consult your weekend program for parade hours.

The Japanese take their flower arrangements very seriously. It is taught in thousands of schools dedicated to this craft in Japan.  Called ikebana, it has its roots in Buddhism.

While the festival itself is a great way to spend an afternoon, don’t forget to wander around the rest of the garden.  You can soak up more Japanese culture by taking a stroll in the nearby Japanese Hill-and-Pond garden.

I suggest stopping by the edges of the Japanese pond to get a peek at some of the turtles that call it home.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Washington Ave.  It is open every day except Mondays.  The hours vary by season, so check here for the most current hours.  Admission is normally $8, but if you’re doing the cherry blossom festival, it will be $15 total. There is an hourly parking fee for those driving in.  The garden is also easy to get to by subway.  Take the 2 or 3 to Eastern Parkway—Brooklyn Museum station; B or Q to Prospect Park station; 4 or 5 to Franklin Avenue; or S shuttle to Prospect Park station.  (The B train does not run on weekends.)