Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

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.


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.

Pratt Sculpture Garden

April 16, 2010

This post is by guest writer Rachel Alexandra, a fellow outdoor enthusiast. I’m hoping to rotate in a guest writer once a month who will feature an outdoor spot that I haven’t had a chance to visit yet or have no pictures of. Please let me know if you’re interested in writing a future post.


New York City is home to a myriad of well renowned colleges and institutions. Some of them encompass fantastic outdoor space and marry art, education, and culture. The nice thing about it is that you don’t necessarily have to be a student to attend or participate. One of these great places is the Pratt Sculpture Garden located in the heart of Pratt Institute, a private art/design/architectural school in Brooklyn. It’s about a half hour ride from Manhattan and requires a few transfers on the L and G lines, but the light trek is worth it. The Bedford Stuyvesant area is mostly residential, but once you get to the Pratt Sculpture Garden, it’s as if you are miles away from the boroughs and smack in a wonderland.

Pratt Sculpture Garden

There are more than two dozen sculptures sprinkled throughout the garden. The sculptures range in size from life-size to building. The variety of concept and materials used is impressive and unique. From stone and marble to plaster and wood, Pratt does a wonderful job in offering everything obscure and poignant to awaken the senses.

Pratt Sculpture Garden

A few sculptures seem to be staples in the garden, while some are clearly rotating around the globe and are temporarily parked at Pratt. Each sculpture comes with a plaque explaining the piece and telling a little bit about the artist. All in a lovely green space, some of the sculptures even incorporate the standing trees in the garden. It is not uncommon to see people like forms made out of twigs entwined around the trunks or spinning bee hives in the air touching the top branches. The garden is sizable and is a nice hour long stroll.

Pratt Sculpture Garden

There are many benches to sit on and it is not uncommon to see students filming a movie, graduate students pouring over books or people sketching. The Pratt Sculpture Garden is even open for picnics and sun bathing. It is an open, clean, safe and well respected space. On the day I went there was no loud music, screaming or unwanted guests. It was truly a day of relaxation and art.

Pratt Sculpture Garden

Pratt Sculpture Garden

The Pratt Sculpture Garden is located at 200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205. To get there from Manhattan take the Brooklyn bound L train and transfer at Lorimer to the G train at Metropolitan Avenue going towards Brooklyn/Church. Get off at Classon Ave. Walk north on Classon and make a left on Willoughby to the Pratt campus. The sculpture garden is open to the public daily and is guarded with security. If you plan to drive there, there is ample street parking available. If you happen to be hungry or want a quick snack, the local pizzeria Luigi is right around the corner (326 DeKalb Avenue) and is highly recommended!

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.