Most locals don't even know about or have experinced what I consider Central Park's greatest and most beautiful asset. The Conservatory Gardens, located at 5th Ave./105th St. in the lesser developed northern section, is a sanctuary of natural beauty within a tranquil setting I can't imagine not having at my daily disposal.
Located only a few blocks from where I live in Spanish Harlem and even closer to our Youth Center, this has became a haven and anchor as a place to escape to often as possible whether lunch breaks, student conferences, doing reading/paperwork outdoors or simply excercising mindless contemplations. But don't let the location scare you off...as it has a lot of New Yorkers. Perhaps our most famous East Harlem resident - Jackie Onassis, used to live in a 5th Ave. penthouse just across/down the avenue. However, one block east beyond is entering the straight-up 'hood! And it never ceases to amaze me at some of the comments I "overhear" from local garden goers; some quite humorous while others quite infuriating.
The main entryway to the Gardens is on 5th Ave. through huge iron gates that once stood at one of the Vanderbilt mansions. On either side of the well-manicured lawn are the garden wings with the left/south side having the largest variety of plants/flowers while the right/north side has seasonal theme beds. A smaller entry is on the northern edge along the path which borders the southern rim of the Harlem Meer-(lake). Garden hours are usually 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. The Gardens have water fountains/public restrooms and plenty of bench space for enjoying company or solitude among the beauty.
Gardeners take great pride in their work and are willing to answer any questions about the many plants and flowers. There are various forms of botany for enjoying all seasons, but Spring is by far my favorite for visiting; especially in early/mid-May. During this time, almost every tree within the garden is of the flowering variety and pink/red/white blossoms provide a shaded canopy...great for sitting under while fluttering petals waft around you. About every spring perennial is blooming in the south wing while the north wing features colorful tulips. Wysteria arbors cover the rotunda trellaced walkway and aromas from all the tree-sized lilac bushes can be nauseating.
For getting here, take a cab or bus up Madison Ave. to 105th and walk one block over or, take the local 6-train up Lexington Ave. exiting at 103rd St., walk up to 104th and then go left heading back to 5th Ave. Also, read my directions in this journal's 'Northern Section entry.