Thursday, March 31, 2011

Central Park, late March

After some viola planting on the Upper West Side yesterday morning I walked into Central Park near West 81st Street, a familiar route, leading me into The Ramble. 

I was hoping to find some early spring flowers, but the woods were closed for business. Not at home to visitors. Birds hopped in the rustling leaf litter and  hammered the bark of tall trees and called from bare branches. Not a single violet leaf peeped out of the brown quilt thrown over the hills and stream beds of this wild part of the park. This will all change in April, and if you're thirsty for a Northeastern spring visit a previous post about April in the park.

Heading towards the Upper East Side I paralleled the 79th Street cut-through allowing traffic to cross the park. Recently in the Times Sarah Maslin Nir wrote about the snow flurries we received last week, ending by noting that along the walls of the 79th Street transverse  "sprays of perennially overeager pyracantha flounced down the stone walls, branch tips almost mingling with small snow drifts..."

Really? First, it's too early for pyracantha (firethorn) to bloom, and's too early for pyracantha to bloom. I had thought the writer must mean winter honeysuckle, which is at least white in bloom, but now I wonder if she meant forsythia. It's only a little bit different from pyracantha. One is pure white and one is bright yellow, but they are both flowers. Just looking at article now (my last in my monthly allowance - I have discovered The Guardian) I see there is a correction in the piece - something about tulips.

The vestiges of witch hazel flowers hung over the road. These were beautiful old trees, their branches in horizontal layers, and I am sorry I missed them in full bloom.

Near the zoo, a large blue splash of glory-of-the-snow,  Chionodoxa lucilieae [4/1/11 - which earlier I identified as Siberian squill, or Scilla siberica - see Janet's comment]. Here I passed two girls on a bench, wearing sunglasses bigger than their heads and eating icecream,  flanked by eight small dogs, seated four on on either side of the girls, on the bench. Each one clad in a quilted orange coat. Upper East Side doggy daycare? I asked if I may take their picture. NO, said one expressionless girl, licking her icecream.

Flowers are easier.

A woman said, as I was photographing these tête-à-têtes and Siberian squill, Scilla siberica [see, similar but different, the squill nods], I just love that purple with that yellow! I actually looked around, thinking I had missed something else in bloom, but no. That just shows that my blue is not your blue.

These buds belong to a cherry, a beautiful, sprawling specimen growing near the yacht pond (properly known as Conservatory Water). I must go to check on its blossoms, soon.

Every lawn was speckled with robins.

And opposite The Plaza a cardinal posed in grey branches...

...before diving off.

In the end the March park belongs to the Cornelian cherries - Cornus mas. They are everywhere, and wonderful. Perhaps I will be brave enough to pick their berries for jelly in summer.

The forsythia, winter honeysuckle, Cornelian cherries, daffodils, scilla and hellebores will give way to the magnolia, cherry, crabapple, amelanchier, and later to azalea, rhododendron, hawthorn; to the woodland ephemerals - violets, bloodroot, shooting star, trillium, to the bedding tulips, to a dozen flowers I have not thought of. 

Perhaps even some pyracantha.


  1. Pyracantha, eh? Fire. Orange.
    The flowers I do not remember, but...

    Forsythia clean yellow.

    But where you see blue I do see blue and purple. But next to the yellow automatically more blue.

    Nice walk. Nice post.

  2. Shame you didn't get the pic of the doggy walkers. I want to see those sunglasses.

    Great stroll, but brrrrrr.

  3. Lovely. Thanks for the tour. My college-going daughter lives a few blocks east of the park but does she ever send me pictures? No.

  4. You went! Wow, beautiful flowers!

  5. All lovely, but the second picture - Yellow Cabs are so New York this would make a good poster.

  6. Never have I love a bird shot more.

    I'm still at work on the cold grey day and you have just filled my heart with a little hope.

    xo J.

  7. Wonderful photo of the cardinal, and thanks for the close up of the squills. Think I have a few that popped up this year. Don't remember having planted them - ever! - but they look like that (with red stems?) and I had planned to see counsel about them.

    enjoyed your walk, even if there was no pyracantha and no tulips. Wishful thinking, methinks!

  8. I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I work in the Park from along the west side from Tavern on the Green up to 71st. I take care of a real nice entrance at W 69th. Right now I have Crocus, daffodils, and the squill blooming. There is a Yoshino cherry that will be starting to bloom by next week (the sepals on some of the buds have already begun to open). Anyway, in a few weeks, this entrance will be alive with native azaleas, wild geranium, siberian bugloss, fothergilla, and the cherry trees. I hope you get a chance to see it all. Keep up the good writing and photography. I love it.

  9. I love this post. The photos are beautiful of one of the most beautiful parks I've visited. I always go to CP during my visits to NYC. It is a true favorite. I especially love the photo of the cherry blooms. I've never seen that type before and they look amazing. Thanks for sharing the park with us that are so far away....

  10. I must tell you that being newish to the Northern Hemisphere, I am using your blog to help me identify the plants around me. Thanks! I now know I have a forsythia growing outside. Before, it was just a "yellow bush"! :D

  11. NYC is 2 weeks ahead of Toronto Just snowdrops and crocuses for me here on April Fools Day. (Your little blue bulbs: The ones with white centers are glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa lucilieae or C. forbesii. Nodders are Siberian squill - S. sibirica. They love consorting, though Scilla are much more agressive in the spread dept.)

  12. Hi Frank - it's actually quite pretty in bloom, in full sun(shade, fewer flowers) - tiny, massed clusters of pure white flowers.

    Rob - not too brrr, those dogs were overdressed :-)

    Pam - tsk tsk - is she at Columbia or NYU?

    Beence - I did! They are! Miss you xxx

    dinah - merci. I have a weakness for yellow cabs in my pictures, total cheat, "This is New York!"

    Jane - I'm glad, Jane - oh, and I loved that picture, too - it represents what I want to do, sometimes - I had no idea I had taken it till I looked back home on a big screen. So what was for dinner? :-)

    webb - thank you but oops, see Janet's comment. My squills (first pic) were glory-of-the-snow.

    Hi eltyboy - thank you! And it's nice to 'meet' you :-) Thank you for the heads up, I shall be there!

    igardendaily - the yellow 'cherries' are in fact a dogwood, Cornus mas, but the common Cornelian cherry name has stuck...

    Kerry - good, glad it's helping...

    Janet - thank you so much for setting me straight. You're right, they are quite different. I have fixed it! That'll teach me to be superior about The Times and its pyracantha :-)

  13. I love your prose. Thanks for the tour!!

  14. Marie: In answer to your question ... "Columbia or NYU" ... the answer is NYU, specifically the Institute of Fine Arts at 78th and 5th. She loves it and was very lucky to get in. (And even luckier to have parents who found a way to pay for it.)


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