New York’s Finest Gardens

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, NYC

Conservatory & Lily Pond at Brooklyn Botanic Garden Photo: Jeff Dobbins

New York’s energy and drive are exciting, exhilarating…and exhausting. Fortunately the city offers an antidote to its propulsive pace – exquisite gardens.  These green havens are tranquil settings in which to marvel at the beauty of nature.  All of NYC’s marvelous gardens are easily accessible and allow one the chance to relax, recharge and escape the concrete jungle.

Here are our picks for New York’s Finest Gardens

The New York Botanical Garden, a sprawling National Historic Landmark in the Bronx, offers exhibitions and flower shows throughout the year. A statement of “the American Garden,” the 250-acre site contains 50 different gardens and plant collections. Purchase the All-Garden pass (as opposed to the Grounds-Only pass) for access to the special exhibits in the Mertz Library and the Haupt Conservatory and to ride the historic tram. Inside the conservatory, look for the underground tunnel which you can enter from a rainforest and exit in a desert.  Venture off the path to see the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and the renowned Rockefeller Rose Garden. The garden also presents year-round programs, events and performances, as well as tours and free mobile apps to navigate the expansive grounds. While reachable via subway and city bus, Metro North’s Harlem Line stops directly outside the garden’s gates. Free admission to the garden Wednesdays and before 10 a.m. on Saturdays (excluding special exhibits and the specialty gardens). For information, calendar and directions, see the garden’s website.

NY Botancial Garden, NYC

Perennial Garden & Conservatory at NY Botanical Garden Photo: Mick Hales/NYBG

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a more intimate than its counterpart in the Bronx, but features many lovely gardens. Some of the park’s highlights include the Japanese Hill-and-Pond, the Shakespeare, Rose and Fragrance Gardens, the Conservatory and Lilly Pool Terrace, and the bounty of cherry trees that burst into dazzling colors every spring.  I particularly enjoyed the Bonsai collection and the tree house made of trees felled by Hurricane Sandy – a peaceful spot for birdwatching. The park is popular, so mornings are the best time to enjoy the grounds in relative solitude. Park entrances on Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue (subway: 2, 3, 4 & 5 trains to Eastern Parkway) as well as a southern entrance on Flatbush Avenue (currently closed for park renovation).  Admission is free all day Tuesdays and Saturdays before noon.  See the garden’s website for hours, exhibits and events.

Burnett Fountain, Conservatory Garden, Central Park

Burnett Fountain in the Conservatory Garden Photo: Jeff Dobbins

The Queens Botanical Garden is more subdued than the other Botanic Gardens. It consists of 39 acres of rose, bee, herb, and perennial gardens.  After passing through its modest entrance, you may feel you have escaped to the countryside because the garden’s simple design and landscape.  The beautiful wedding garden, one of the park highlights, is closed during the week to dissuade flower snatchers.  The garden offers a busy roster of educational programs and seasonal events. After exiting the #7 subway at Flushing – Main Street, a city bus is available for the 8 blocks to the park entrance. However, the walk through the center of Flushing (home to one of NYC’s vibrant Chinatowns) is a fun cultural experience with plenty of incredible food.  Check the garden’s website for hours (which change with the seasons), events calendar and directions.

Central Park’s Conservatory Garden is the famed park’s only formal garden. The garden’s main entrance, located at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street, is via the magnificent Vanderbilt Gate (rescued from one of their Gilded Age mansions), leading to the manicured Italian Garden backed by a splendid Wisteria pergola.  This central garden is flanked by two smaller gardens. To the north is the circular French garden, the focus of which is the charming fountain of Three Dancing Maidens. The southern garden is the wild English garden with a lovely fountain inspired by the children’s classic, “The Secret Garden.”  The garden is open daily 8am to dusk and there is no admission charge.

Snug Harbor Garden, NYC

The lovely garden at Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Botanical Garden at Staten Island’s Snug Harbor is truly one of NYC’s hidden treasures.  From the island’s Ferry Terminal take the S44 bus, which will leave you at the park’s rear entrance.  Resembling a small forest, this passageway is a wonderful introduction to the scenic grounds.  Inside the park you will encounter varied gardens, as well as a large pond with enormous trees and benches for relaxation and a bit of introspection.   During the week there are few visitors, enhancing the park’s serene atmosphere.  The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk and admission is free. There is a charge for the Chinese Scholar’s Garden and Performance and Visual Arts venues, which are open on a different schedule.  See the center’s website for details and calendar of events and performances.

This is a guest post by Helena Gouros, an Australian expat living in NYC, Helena is pursuing a career in acting and the arts.  Helena is founder of the website Stellarhart, memoirs of a female artiste and her adventures in New York City.

Three Dancing Maidens, Conservatory Garden

“Three Dancing Maidens” in the Conservatory Garden Photo: Jeff Dobbins

What is your favorite garden or green space in NYC?  Tell us in the comments below.

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