Let’s explore the flowers, parks and gardens that make New York City the iconic destination that it is.
FLOWERS OF NEW YORK CITY
Former NYC mayor Bloomberg declared the official flower to be the daffodil, in commemoration of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, each borough has its own flower, and many botanists feel it would have been more appropriate to choose a native plant, such as witch hazel or marshmallow, which are hardy enough to survive the cold winters, and are tough like New Yorkers themselves. Still others feel that the tulip would have been a good choice, given that the city was originally called New Amsterdam.
New York's native flora adds a touch of wild beauty to its urban landscape. Some of the native flowers you might encounter in the city's parks and green spaces include:
Eastern Red Columbine: These delicate, red and yellow flowers can be found in shaded woodland areas like the Ramble in Central Park.
Eastern Redbud: Known for its pink to purple blossoms, the Eastern Redbud graces parks and gardens with its springtime beauty.
Bee Balm: This vibrant, red wildflower attracts pollinators and can be spotted in gardens and meadows.
Goldenrod: Despite its reputation as a weed, goldenrod produces stunning, bright yellow blooms that dot meadows and fields in late summer.
Joe-Pye Weed: Tall spikes of pinkish-purple flowers make Joe-Pye Weed a standout in wetland areas and along water features.
FAMOUS PARKS OF NEW YORK CITY
THE HIGH LINE
The High Line public park, an abandoned elevated railway line, connects to Hudson Yards making it a perfect place to begin a stroll of the 1.5 mile garden. It offers a unique perspective on the city and a profusion of carefully curated plants and flowers, and is a testament to the transformative power of green space in an urban setting,
The High Line's planting design incorporates native species and perennials, showcasing their beauty throughout the year. Springtime highlights include magnolias, dogwoods, and daffodils. Be sure to explore the various gardens along the High Line, such as the Gansevoort Woodland, Chelsea Grasslands, and the Wildflower Field. Each section offers a different ambiance and a diverse selection of flora. You can download their free plant guide here before you go..
The High Line often features temporary art installations that complement the park's natural beauty. Keep an eye out for exhibitions and events that infuse floral themes into their artistic expressions. See the manmade Little Island art installation (gifted to the city by Diane Von Furstenberg and her husband) or walk a little further to The Standard Highline Grill. The classic brasserie serves seafood and steaks from a French chef who was a protégé of Paris’ famed Joël Robuchon. And speaking of Paris, fun fact: the High Line was inspired by a similar concept of an elevated park on an abandoned rail line in that city called the Coulé Vert.
Central Park is a crown jewel of New York City, spanning 843 acres in the heart of Manhattan. It has been featured in countless movies, commemorated in pop music, and even started cultural memes, such as the infamous “Central Park Karen.” A popular spot for wedding proposals and romantic ceremonies at the iconic boathouse, it is one of the best-used urban parks in the world, with opportunities for carriage rides, jogging, and (ahem) bird watching. Here are the most important areas of the park to explore from a botanical point of view:
Conservatory Garden: Begin your floral journey at the Conservatory Garden, a meticulously designed space with three distinct sections: the Italian Garden, the French Garden, and the English Garden. In spring, tulips and daffodils carpet the grounds, while summer brings roses, lilies, and vibrant annuals.
The Central Park Zoo: Adjacent to the Conservatory Garden, the zoo features beautifully landscaped gardens and animal exhibits. Don't miss the Tisch Children's Zoo, where you'll find interactive exhibits surrounded by lovely gardens.
Bethesda Terrace: Stroll down to Bethesda Terrace and enjoy the iconic Bethesda Fountain, framed by colourful flower beds. Cherry blossoms in the spring and vibrant foliage in the fall make this area a photographer's dream.
Strawberry Fields: Pay your respects to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields, a peaceful memorial garden dedicated to the legendary musician. This tranquil spot is adorned with an Imagine mosaic surrounded by lush landscaping.
The Ramble: Explore the Ramble, a woodland area teeming with native flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for wildflowers like trilliums, bloodroot, and Virginia bluebells in the spring.
ART AND FLOWERS IN NEW YORK CITY
FLEURS DE VILLES VOYAGE
From October 6-15, 2023, Fleurs de Villes will return by popular demand to NYC, with our global VOYAGE tour making a stop at Hudson Yards. This stunning showcase of local floral talent will feature 15 fresh floral mannequins celebrating people, heritage and cultures around the world. This feast of cultural story-telling is beautifully supported by Hendrick’s Gin, Estiatorio Milos, Queensyard and Tourism Bermuda.
New Yorkers love the floral arts so much that they even have a dedicated newspaper column in The Wall Street Journal, called Flower School. Its columnist, designer Lindsey Taylor, has a new book based on it coming out October 25, 2023 from Phaidon, called Art in Flower, which showcases arrangements inspired by famous works of art by artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning and Georgia O'Keeffe - another remarkable woman we featured ‘en fleurs’ in our 2022 series Fleurs de Villes FEMMES.
THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN
Declared “a triumph” by the New York Times, the art-and-flower exhibit …things come to thrive…in the shedding…in the molting… by contemporary artist Ebony G. Patterson has been extended through October 22, 2023 at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Through provocative displays of the confluence of art and nature including swarms of 400 glitter-encrusted vultures and a peacock sculpture, the buzzworthy Black artist explores themes of race, gender, and colonialism, and invites viewers to reflect on their own relationship with gardens as places of healing and regeneration. The show is a culmination of Patterson’s year long artist-in-residence stint at the Garden.
Keep an eye on their calendar for other floral-inspired art exhibitions, such as the much celebrated garden takeover by celebrated artist Yayoi Kusama called SUSAMA: Cosmic Nature that took place in 2021. Kusama was also one of the female artists recreated in flowers for Fleurs de Villes FEMMES in 2022.
New York-based portrait artist Kehinde Wiley brings art history face-to-face with contemporary culture, by using the traditional settings of Old Master paintings to create powerful images that celebrate and empower people of colour often with floral backdrops, while challenging art-history conventions. Read our full story here.