Heathers and Flowers

The Heather Garden

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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.

In 2009, prior to the park's 75th anniversary, the Fort Tryon Park Trust engaged public garden designers Lynden B. Miller and Ronda M. Brands to reinvigorate the planting design and develop a Framework Plan for enhancing and sustaining the Heather Garden for the long term.  Miller and Brands built upon the unique horticultural, historic, and scenic assets of the Heather Garden while preserving the spirit of the original plan.  Today, the garden is home to more than 500 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 and rare Franklinia trees bloom. Stately American elms shade the Stan Michels Promenade which flanks the 600 linear foot perennial bed of the Heather Garden.

Lynden Miller and Ronda Brands are working with us on a Framework Plan for the Heather Garden so that we can sustain it for the next 75 years. To help fund this important initiative, contact Jennifer Hoppa.

More Information about the Heather Garden

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Heather Garden Image Gallery