May 7, 2010
A garden a day - Wave Hill
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We've covered the main types of public gardens, but not all public gardens fit neatly in those categories. Case in point: Wave Hill right here on the edge of NYC in a lovely neighborhood of the Bronx called Riverdale. Wave Hill was a former estate (actually two former estates), so it has the stately homes and mature trees that go with that, and they create their plantings with a level of artistry similar to Chanticleer, but they are very much on a mission to educate the public about nature, art, and horticulture. So maybe Wave Hill is better described as a horticultural garden than a botanical garden - plants are labeled, frequently grouped into collection-like displays, but they aren't so science-based as a botanical garden. Their mission statement describes their philosophy nicely:
Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Its mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.
If you are coming to NYC and have time to see only one public garden in the area, you can't do much better than Wave Hill. Not all the hype in the world can prepare you for the moment when you turn the corner to enter the garden and the most spectacular view imaginable is revealed, and the rest of the garden continues to deliver in beauty, diversity, and creativity. Have a look at my photos taken last summer and add a visit to your NYC itinerary - Wave Hill is easily reached by Metro-North Railroad trains for a peaceful and inspiring escape from the city.
1 It was a foggy, rainy day, so the fantastic panorama of the Palisades isn't visible. But you may very well recognize this arbor with its lush plantings - it has graced the pages of Living before.
2 The flower garden at Wave Hill is immediately to your right when you enter. It is mostly perennials accented by annuals each year.
3 It is anchored throughout with both evergreen and deciduous shrubs.
4 Note how the small, clipped mounds of yew in the flower garden echo the forms of the distant trees. Wave Hill is a great place to visit to study garden design.
5 Every garden at Wave Hill has a place to sit and take it all in - the flower garden has a lovely vine-covered bower.
6 That bench is on axis with this planting of four columnar yews and a dramatic potted furcraea which anchor the center of the garden.
7 By late summer, the billowy plants soften the edges of the stone walk for a romantic, abundant feel.
8 This part of the flower garden with white flowers serving as a unifying theme.
9 This shaded area is lined with hostas.
10 And this planting of perennials marks a transition from the cooler pinks and purples of the main garden to warm yellows as you move through it.
11 The flower garden sits in front of Wave Hill's small but lovely conservatory. In the main house there is an acacia tree that fills the whole place with its fruity scent when it blooms in winter.
12 Wave Hill has a great collection of succulent plants and cacti, and they stage them for visual interest.
13 Strophanthus preussii in flower - I've always admired these exotic blooms. A google image search reveals that a large plant in full bloom is truly a sight to behold.
14 I loved this scene in the tropical house - caladium, philodendron on the bench and rainbow moss (Selaginella uncinata) and syngonium growing in the gravel.
15 A detail of the "weeds" (?) growing in the gravel under the benches in the tropical house.
16 The wild garden is my favorite area of Wave Hill. It is an example of naturalistic planting - but don't be fooled. It can take even more work to maintain a naturalistic planting than a formal one!
17 A wider view of the wild garden - you can see the hill-top pavilion at left. This garden changes so much through the seasons, so frequent visits are necessary to understand the depth of plantings it harbors.
18 The wild garden relies on self-seeders like this woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) to lend a carefully selected but slightly unkempt look.
19 Another technique that makes the wild garden so charming - leaving sculptural plant "skeletons" to stand, like this verbascum.
20 In the center of the wild garden is a very large, sprawling, artistically pruned lace-leaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'). It's beautiful year-round but is positively breathtaking in autumn.
21 Leading out of the wild garden, this gigantic specimen of giant reed (Arundo donax) never fails to impress. Sadly, this garden stunner is considered invasive in warmer climates but our cold winters help keep it in check.
22 A rustic bench in a pavilion at the top of the wild garden - there is a wonderful view from here, and if you're lucky enough to have it all to yourself like this, you'll want to stay awhile.
23 Part of Wave Hill's mission is to connect people with nature - seeing this humongous dragonfly sitting perfectly still on a viburnum certainly made me feel connected!
24 Looking down over the herb garden toward the back of the conservatory (on the left) and the gift shop (on the right). The hilly landscape of the Bronx means ample opportunities for views like this.
25 They have an impressive collection of alpine plants - some in tufa troughs, like this one, and many in a specially designed alpine greenhouse.
26 This combination still makes my jaw drop - Medinilla scortechinii with various caladiums.
27 There is a small pinetum at the edge of the garden with lots of wonderful and unusual specimens.
28 This old stone pergola supports lots of vines - some familiar, like this trumpet vine, some unfamiliar species, like hardy dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla).
So, that's it - five days this week, five fabulous public gardens. I hope I inspired you to visit your local public garden this weekend. If you do go out, let us know in the comments, and if you've blogged it, please post a link. We'd love to follow along with you!
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