Free NYC Flower Gardens
You don’t have to be a horticulturist or fond of tight spaces to find free things to do in NYC this weekend involving the joys of flowers. Generally designed by professionals, the free gardens across Manhattan are often nestled within a larger green space, such as the most well-known Central Park garden that can be found within—you guessed it—Central Park.
These flower gardens, often themed and sometimes symbolic, are as diverse as the neighborhoods they’ve become part of. Many offer guides to the types and seasons of their plants. Flowers, of course, mostly bloom in spring and summer, but most gardens have something to offer year-round. If you’re a flower-lover in NYC, check out Community Gardens in Manhattan for a chance to visit or even get your hands dirty in a garden near you, or go to our guide to botanical gardens and shows for the skinny on the biggies of New York floral venues.
CENTRAL PARK CONSERVATORY GARDEN
The Central Park Conservatory Garden NYC knows and loves has an interesting history. In addition to being the city’s only formal garden, it is also one of our oldest: Named after the conservatory at that location from 1898 to 1934, the public has been enjoying it since 1937. The garden hosts a yearly film festival and regular educational programs for kids.
LOCATION: East Side of Central Park from 104th – 106th Streets
OVERVIEW: Italian, French, and English gardens make up a total of six acres
PLANT GUIDE: Members-only “Bloom Guide”
GREAT PLACE FOR: Weddings, reading a good book, romantic strolls
THE HIGH LINE
After a 50-year run, the train line running on the elevated tracks were scheduled for demolition. Community members convinced the city to keep the railroad in the 1980s, petitioned to turn the line into a public space in the 1990s, and designed the park in the 2000s. The first section of the park opened to the public in 2009; it was finished in 2014.
LOCATION: West Side (Gansevoort St to 34th St between 10th & 12th Ave)
OVERVIEW: Elevated rail line turned to visionary public park
PLANT GUIDE: Month-by-month guide here
GREAT PLACE FOR: Family walks, coffee meetings, mini-getaways
BATTERY PARK: GARDENS OF REMEMBRANCE & THE BOSQUE
Designed by Piet Oudolf, the Battery Park gardens are relatively new on the scene. Planted in May 2003, the Gardens of Remembrance salute those affected by 9/11 through “114 varieties of hybrid perennials and native plants”. Oudolf also designed the Bosque, which in 2005 turned an arid urban corner into a prairie-woodland oasis.
LOCATION: Battery Park City
OVERVIEW: 10,000-square-foot garden in memory of 9/11 beside 53,000 square feet of gardens among London plane trees
PLANT GUIDE: Battery plant database here
GREAT PLACE FOR: A stroll after working on Wall Street or visiting Ellis Island
FORT TRYON PARK HEATHER GARDEN
Between the Heather Garden and the Cloisters, visiting Fort Tryon Park is like being transplanted in space and time. The Heather Garden was designed in the 1930s and features dozens of varieties of heaths and heathers, as well as hydrangeas, irises, and more. Walking tours and “Beautification Days” take place in the summer.
LOCATION: Washington Heights/Inwood (Margaret Corbin Circle)
OVERVIEW: Four acres of lush plant life hundreds of feet above the Hudson River
PLANT GUIDE: Find the Heather Garden Guide here
GREAT PLACE FOR: A lazy day “away” from Manhattan
91ST STREET GARDEN
Begun in 1977 in a different location that was turned into a condo building, the 91st Street Garden is maintained by individuals responsible for small plots of flowers and herbs (no vegetables). Run by the volunteer collective The Garden People, the park was featured in a romantic scene in You’ve Got Mail.
LOCATION: Upper West Side (Riverside Drive between 90th and 91st Streets)
OVERVIEW: A community garden at the heart of Riverside Park
PLANT GUIDE: While the Garden doesn’t have plant guide, enjoy the map and photo gallery
GREAT PLACE FOR: Watching butterflies, reenacting Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies
MORE TIPS FOR THE FLORALLY-MINDED
If you’re a true floral enthusiast, check out NYC Parks’ Citywide Bloom Guide. It tells you, borough by borough and month by month, which flower species you can expect to see flourishing in your neighborhood. The guide features a photo gallery for your enjoyment and identification skills, as well as asterisks to indicate which plants are native to New York. New York State also offers a few gardening tips on its website.
Whether you want to get your hands dirty and your community activism on or just stroll through some exquisitely designed landscapes with a friend, Manhattan welcomes you. No matter what neighborhood you find yourself in, a free shot of colorful, aromatic bliss (100% organic) is waiting around the corner.