The Heather Garden
The Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park is one of the largest heath and heather gardens on the East Coast and the largest public garden with unrestricted access in New York City. When he donated the land to New York City, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. hired the Olmsted Brothers firm to design this three–acre jewel. They sited the garden on slopes more than a hundred feet above the Hudson River with stunning vistas of the New Jersey Palisades. Rockefeller purchased the property across the river in New Jersey to prevent development there and protect the views from Fort Tryon Park.
A much–needed restoration of the Heather Garden began in 1983. The Olmsted Brothers’ 1935 plan served as the basis for that restoration, and it continues to guide the work of the horticultural staff. The designers’ intent is respected while plant selection and horticultural practices are adapted to current soil and climate conditions. Although the Heather Garden was originally designed to flower in spring and summer, new plant varieties have been added to extend bloom time. Novel and improved plant cultivars are chosen to create dramatic spring and summer displays and emphasize fall color.
Today, the historic garden has year–round horticultural and scenic interest. Heathers are but a few of the many plants found here. The garden is also home to more than 200 varieties of perennials and shrubs. Throughout spring, drifts of snowdrops, crocuses, narcissi, tulips, spectacular collections of brooms, azaleas, peonies, dogwoods, rhododendrons, and oriental poppies flower. In summer, hybrid musk roses, hydrangeas, and irises make their floral show. Stately American elms shade the Stan Michels Promenade throughout the year and rare Franklinia trees bloom in fall.