By Meg A. Parsont
“This rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I used to think I had to go to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see roses, but I realize now that roses are everywhere on the Upper West Side!
They’re in the islands dividing Broadway, in apartment building planters and brownstone gardens, and in front of restaurants, stores, churches, and synagogues. (The roses in front of Church of the Holy Name of Jesus on Amsterdam Avenue at 96th are particularly beautiful). And they have emerged in full profusion over the past week or so.
The Lotus Garden on West 97th Street is home to at least 12 different types of roses. Many of them can be found in the sunnier parts of the garden, but there are also some in the middle section where the light is less consistent. The Eden rose, a pale pinky-coral climbing rose on an espalier near the ivy-covered wall, has just bloomed for the first time after having been planted two year ago. The pink Carolina shrub rose towards the center of the garden is still going strong at 30 years old.
A tall, deep red climbing rose called Dublin rose can’t be missed In the herb garden section.
And in the plot across from the herb garden the lyrically named Lark Ascending, a pale peach color, contrasts beautifully with the magenta Munstead Wood rose in the same plot.
Other flowers blooming now in the Lotus Garden include delicate yellow, purple, and white columbine, a dramatic pale purple clematis, and digitalis (foxglove) in both purple and cream. Also look for the feathery white flowers of the astilbe along some of the paths, and the pale mauve tubular bell-shaped flowers of the perennial Campanula punctata ‘Rubrifolia.’
As the West Side Community Garden has cleared out their 12,000 tulips, new plants are starting to fill in the plant beds, including the native perennial Baptisia, also known as “Wild Indigo” or “False Indigo.” These purple blooms are flourishing along the path leading to the 90th Street entrance and in several plots. Another native, the oak leaf hydrangea is also coming into bloom. Very different from the pink or blue globe-shaped hydrangeas many of us know, this tall shrub has oversized leaves and long spikes of small white flowers.
Roses are plentiful in the West Side Community Garden along the paths and in the individual plots, with many beauties having been there for several decades. Some of these roses pre-date the gardeners, making their origins and their names a mystery! Be sure to stop by the stunning peach with yellow rose at the 90th Street entrance that’s most likely in the “Peace Rose” family of hybrid teas.
Visitors to the West Side Community Garden this week may have the unique experience of seeing “snow” flying through the air. The huge cottonwood tree in the vegetable garden releases its seeds at this time of year, each encased in a tiny tuft of cottony fuzz. When the breeze blows, these tufts fly through the air and blanket the ground with what looks like a thin layer of snow. Judy Robinson, president of the West Side Community Garden, notes, “It’s awe-inspiring to think that the tiny seed enclosed in each bit of ‘cotton’ can potentially grow into a 100-foot tall tree.”
In the 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park, the last heavy pink and fuchsia blooms of this season’s peonies are now soaking up the sunshine after rainstorms earlier this week. Just as the peonies are heading out, the roses are coming in, and there’s a huge variety: the aptly-named deep reddish-pink Knock-Out rose in the octagon portion of the garden, the fragrant hot pink McCartney (Sir Paul) tea rose in the northern portion of the rectangle, eight-foot-tall red roses at the southernmost end of the rectangle, and many, many more.
Purple abounds in the 91st Street garden. Look for a deep amethyst clematis in the plot with the topiaries, a grove of two-foot-tall allium in the center of the octagon (which is also a memorial garden in progress), and purple salvia in several plots—often covered with happy bees and butterflies. The Onyx and Pearls Beardtongue growing in the octagon is another plant that’s a major draw for pollinators and even hummingbirds. With its dark foliage and pale lavender flowers with white interiors, it was named after two opposite colors of gemstones.
The weather forecast for the weekend is warm and sunny—perfect weather to visit a garden or two!
Plan a visit:
The West Side Community Garden (89-90th Streets, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues)
Open 7 days/week from dawn to dusk
Mark your calendar: Sweet Plantain classical and Latin music concert in the garden, June 5 starting at 6:00 pm
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
Mark your calendar: Annual children’s arts & crafts afternoon, June 4 from 1:00-4:00 pm
The 91st Street Garden on the Promenade level of Riverside Park
Open 7 days/week from dawn to dusk
Wow! We’re so lucky to have you on the flower watch, Meg, alerting us to all the beauties we would have overlooked. You’re providing an essential life-affirming service for all of us upper-west-siders when we need it most and we love you for it!
I love this feature in the West Side Rag. I’ve been checking it out since it started and going to see the gardens and flowers described. What a treat to see beauty in this often ugly times.
I 💗New York!
God does wonderful things!
Thank you so much for this really lovely report and photographs. And I am super thankful the “snow” mentioned in the headline refers to seeds of the cottonwood tree.
What a lovely post. Thank you for this.
Munstead wood rose is a stunner
Thank you, thank you for the glorious feast of color and shape of springtime in the 91st Street Garden. For those of us who are landlocked in apartments it is a delicious treat
Please keep this and the birding reports coming. I love them both.
Friends of Verdi Square are now planting and cultivating their roses (73rd/Broadway). Was just there this morning and they are working hard! Other plants, native and new, are beautifully green right now.
I long for more information about the flowers in the 91 st garden and greatly appreciate this info. If a bulletin was published and available to visitors when they come it would be an asset.Thee rarely is a gardener available when I go and if there is they do not have the depth of understanding expressed here. Thanks!
There is, however, still a reason to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s roses: they have so many varieties all next to each other, many of which are fragrant.
It’s been a while since I visited but I recall learning there that roses used to bred for smell more than looks, but that is no longer the case. Obviously both are good, but I think smell is that powerful sense that we most overlook in modern life, so it’s a real treat to stick ones nose in a rose and breathe in deeply.
Thanks, Meg, for another wonderful column. I’m learning so much!
Please cut the grass in Riverside Park, especially in the upper upper west side. Looks like it hasn’t been cut all spring.
Don’t forget the beautiful gardens surrounding the clay courts in Riverside between 97 and 99 – lots of roses and other annuals up there too!