By Lisa Kava
The annual Tulip Festival at West Side Community Garden (WSCG), with entrances on 89th and 90th Streets between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, has been a sign of spring on the Upper West Side for half a century. The Festival will begin this year — approximately — on April 15th, and will last through the end of the first week of May. “That is our best guess as to when the tulips will be in bloom,” Judy Robinson, president of WSCG’s board of directors, told the Rag.
During the Tulip Festival, visitors to WSCG can view 75 varieties of tulips, the result of 13,000 bulbs that were planted in November by garden members and volunteers from the community. “We were happy to open planting weekend to everyone in November, 2022, for the first time since 2019,” Robinson said.
WSCG comprises 1.25 acres of land, with a flower garden at one end and individually assigned vegetable plots (with a 2-3-year waiting list) at the other. Formerly an empty lot, it was part of the West Side Urban Renewal Project of the 1970s. Buildings were torn down and developers were given the right to develop the space, but, for a time, it remained vacant and became a “dumping ground for garbage and even old cars,” Robinson said. Eventually a handful of neighborhood residents began gardening there, ultimately organizing into a coalition that fought for the space to be protected from development.
WSCG was incorporated as a not-for-profit in 1983 and took ownership of the garden in 1989. But the Tulip Festival’s origins date back to the 1970s, before the not-for-profit existed. At that time, one of the neighborhood gardeners, Charles Jones, informally started planting bulbs in the fall with the idea of welcoming a “tulip festival” in the spring. That festival has since turned into an annual neighborhood event.
WSCG is open every day from early morning until dusk, and the tulips can be viewed daily. Information booths will be set up during the weekends of April 15-16, and April 22-23, where WSCG members will be available from 10 AM-6 PM to speak with visitors and give information about the tulips. Robinson encourages visitors to come during the week when the garden is less crowded. “It is often thronged with people coming to see the tulips on weekends, but less crowded on weekdays, making for a more peaceful and relaxing experience,” she said.
Robinson also recommends multiple visits during the Tulip Festival. “Each flower usually lasts just a week or 10 days. As some fade others are coming into bloom,” she explained. “So a person who repeatedly visits the WSCG during this time will see different tulips in bloom each visit.”
Wonderful. thank you for posting! I’ll be there!
After the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, this is probably my favorite annual NYC event. Yay!
This is not to be missed! An amazing amount of hard work makes this happen. You know, flowers don’t just grow on trees.