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GardenSMART :: The Fabulous Urban Gardens of New York City

The Fabulous Urban Gardens of New York City

By Alki Tours
Photos courtesy of Alki Tours

Gardens probably aren't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New York City, but New York is surprisingly green, filled with some of the most notable gardens and parks in the country. Nearly 20 percent of the city is public parkland, a figure that earned it second place, behind San Diego, when the Trust for Public Land conducted its annual Park Score survey of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

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New York Botanical Garden

If you don't have a garden of your own, don't worry. Just get into the habit of walking through a public place like the New York Botanical Garden, which has 250 acres in the Bronx. Founded in 1891 and now a National Historic Landmark, it is one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world and the largest in any city in the United States, distinguished by the beauty of its diverse landscape and extensive collections and gardens. Breathtaking works of art by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly will be on display through October of 2017.

Bosque Gardens and Gardens of Remembrance

These sanctuaries, developed between 2001 and 2005, have been hiding in plain sight at the Battery, largely ignored by the throngs heading to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governors Island.

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Brooklyn Botanical Garden

This 52-acre garden is home to the climate-controlled Steinhardt Conservatory (which houses plant life from three different temperate zones), as well as gardens devoted to fragrances and plants mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. If you want some fauna to go with your flora, check out the ducks in the picturesque Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.

Fort Tryon Park Heather Garden

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and reinvigorated by public garden designer Lynden Miller (whose green fingerprints are all over New York's prettiest parks), Fort Tryon Park sits 250 feet above the Hudson River and boasts more than four landscaped acres that look as if they were transplanted from an English country estate, with sloping lawns and drooping elms. The garden features more than three dozen varieties of heaths and heathers, some of which bloom even in winter, their needlelike leaves turning copper or chocolate.

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Narrows Botanical Garden

This small expanse manages to pack plenty of flora into its 4.5 acres. You'll find a wide array of flowers and plants here, including sections devoted entirely to weeping willows, roses and linden trees. Water lilies begin blooming in the Lily Pond in May, while the 450-foot-long Fragrant Pathway is filled with lilacs, lilies and jasmine, providing further sensory treats for both your nose and your eye.

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91st Street Garden

For 30 years, a volunteer collective called the Garden People has carefully curated the block-long 91st Street Garden, one of the most colorful corners of Riverside Park. (It's also one of the park's more famous locations, having made a cameo in the romantic climax of the 1998 film You've Got Mail.)

Hundreds of varieties of plants line the asphalt walkway, including rose of Sharon and giant hibiscus flowers. During the summer, keep an eye out for monarch and swallowtail butterflies, which are drawn to the aromatic bushes.

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Snug Harbor Cultural Center

Sitting just a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, this Staten Island gem, a former home for retired sailors, is still somewhat of a secret. Spread across 83 acres, the area boasts an enormous botanical garden and cultural center surrounded by cobblestone streets and tiny paths winding past Victorian and Tudor homes. One of the most popular attractions here is the Chinese Scholar's Garden, fitted with magnificent rocks meant to resemble mountains inspired by the poetry and paintings of Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist monks, as well as a bamboo forest path and koi-filled pond.

Join Alki Tours on a fabulous 6-night trip to New York City, August 24-30, 2017. For reservations and information go to


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