Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Conservatory Garden in September

Our brief residence in Harlem (late 2013 - 2015) and proximity to Central Park introduced me to the early autumn fireworks of the Conservatory Garden in the park's northeast corner (it is very different, but no less colorful, in spring). 

The Frenchman and I walked down there from 127th Street one September, to find tiny hummingbirds vibrating from plant to plant. Recently, we returned, all grown up, driving an actual car. (And paying $22 for three hours of metered street parking. Yikes). The Frenchman has treated himself to a new camera lens, and he needed lightning-fast hummers to test it (it passed the test).

I just wanted to see the flowers. 

If I ever had a prejudice against annuals - and I did, dismissing them as semi-industrialized bedding plants, planted in blocks or rows of thoughtless and often offensive color - this icon of New York horticulture cured me. Thanks to its curator, Diane Schaub, I get them, now.

But first, perennials: In the dappled shade of a magnolia, tall, red-flowered angelica was in bloom.

So were Japanese anemones, at their graceful peak.

And right above me, a tiny hummingbird, taking a brief break from her voracious quest for nectar, her resting heart rate a mere 400 beats per minute.

Ruellia: Slender stalks and willowy leaves with silky purple flowers offset against sturdy zinnias.

If you like salvia, this is the place to be. And September should be declared salvia  month.

Zinnias are deployed dramatically, here, providing structure and pink reassurance.

As well as sustenance for swallowtails.

These clumps of alliums were buzzing with honey bees. I know! More perennials! If you have full sun (meaning six hours or more of direct sunlight), and space, plant alliums. There's almost an allium for every month, starting in May.

Cannas, salvia, pennisetum, hot little pops of gomphrena...

And just for South Africans, bulbine. whose gel-filled leaves are a traditional southern African treatment for burns and skill ailments, but whose vivid orange flowers are now very popular, Stateside (and invasive, in some states; sorry, Florida!). Bees like them, too. I have a pot on our tiny terrace, for kitchen burns and terrace pollinators.

We will be back. October is just as rewarding. But we'll find different parking!


NYBG Class, 15 October


  1. That's one thing Seattle doesn't have a really lovely garden. Oh, we have plenty of parks with a few nice plantings, but no really awesome gardens. Boo!

    1. Really?! I think of Seattle as such a horticultural city. Have you been to Dunn Gardens? UW Arboretum? Streissgud? Carl English? Bellevue?

  2. I love the Conservatory Garden. One of Lynden Miller's beautiful design gifts to the city, along with Bryant. The last time I was there was right after a thunderstorm which cleared everyone out as I was making my way in. It was heavenly to be all alone there.

    1. It is gorgeous. It wasn't too peaceful that day, with an amplified church group preaching from the pond! I did learn a few things about Boaz, though.

  3. Oh how wonderful - I have really only gone in spring and early summer. I will have to find time this autumn!

    1. I think I like this time best. Spring is a little garish for me!

    2. (I mean, garish in this garden...)


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