By Meg A. Parsont
Mother’s Day and flowers go hand-in-hand, and many of our city’s flowers are blooming just in time! The azaleas are budding in dazzling shades of pink, fuchsia, and scarlet, the lilacs are burgeoning, and some precocious peonies are making an appearance in the community gardens and parks on the Upper West Side. To top it all off, tulips, cherry trees, redbud, and crabapples are still going strong, thanks to the cooler than usual spring we’ve been experiencing.
Surrounded by buildings on West 97th Street, the Lotus Garden tends to get a lot of shade, so their tulips are just reaching their peak. Plots are overflowing with a wide range of varieties and colors, beautifully curated to complement the plants surrounding them. With their extra-full double blooms, some of them masquerade as peonies, and are fittingly known as peony tulips.
True peonies are also beginning to bud, and there are at least three lilac bushes in the garden as well as a number of azalea bushes that are likely to burst into bloom just in time for Mother’s Day on May 8. If you look closely in one of the plots, you’ll notice lovely purple anemones (Anemone blanda Blue Shades) that are grown from bulbs. Interestingly, these little flowers close up at night and open again in daylight.
In the West Side Community Garden on 89th Street, the ferns are unfurling, the tree peonies are in full profusion, and the tulips continue to put on a dazzling display. The heirloom tulips are among the last to bloom, along the garden path leading to the 90th Street entrance. Near the 89th Street entrance, clusters of white and multi-colored tulips are beautifully framed by groves of bright-green ostrich ferns (named for their resemblance to ostrich feathers).
Two tree peonies are in full bloom right now, towards the back of the main portion of the West Side Community Garden. With their brilliant magenta flowers, you can’t miss them! On a much more diminutive scale but no less brilliant, look for the fuchsia-colored bleeding heart nestled among the greenery near the 89th Street entrance.
In the 91st Street Garden on the Promenade level of Riverside Park, most of the tulips have given way to the next wave of flowers. In the octagon portion of the garden, a pinky-purple dwarf lilac bush and several azalea bushes are on the brink of blooming. There’s also a stunning patch of pale purple creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera “Sherwood Purple”), whose blooms attract queen bumble bees and other early spring pollinators.
In the rectangle portion of the garden, you’ll see carpets of lavender-colored and hot-pink creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), delicate blue-purple forget-me-nots, and, if you look closely on the east side of the garden, some tiny scarlet-colored species tulips (un-hybridized tulips) which look especially lovely nestled next to the remaining muscari (grape hyacinth). There are several other unusual species of flowers in the garden including the drooping trillium—recognizable by its white three-petalled flower and elegant foliage—and the petite yellow glacier lilies.
What’s the symbolism of some of the flowers blooming right now? (With a nod to the Victorians.)
Azaleas: Temperance, emotional evenness
Bleeding hearts: Passionate love, romance
Forget-me-nots: True love, devotion, and respect
Lilacs: First feelings of love
Tulips: Fame or passion
What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with a visit to some of our city’s many green spaces?
Plan a visit:
The West Side Community Garden (89-90th Streets, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues)
Open 7 days/week from dawn to dusk
The Lotus Garden (97th Street between West End Avenue and Broadway)
Open to the public on Sunday afternoons between 1-4 pm, from April 10-mid-November
The 91st Street Garden on the Promenade level of Riverside Park
Open 7 days/week from dawn to dusk
I was just at WSCG yesterday with my niece and we were wondering about those flowers that “masquerade as peonies.” Thanks for that confirmation. Beautiful photos!
Thank you for this lovely article.