This time last year, I was in New York. Naturally, I made a beeline for Central Park, of which I’d read much but had never visited. What a jewel!
Besides expanses of lawn on which children played, dogs raced and sunlovers basked, there were beautiful wild areas buzzing with pollinators. The plantings include lots of goldenrods, lots of asters, spikes of Bottlebrush Grass, graceful curves of Canada Wild Rye, fluffy white clusters of Boneset, tall stems of Joe Pye Weed, drifts of Anise Hyssop, ladders of White Turtlehead and, very effectively, the pale pink sepals of Spotted Beebalm. Also an aromatic bed of Sweetfern, a native shrub used for many medicinal purposes that flourishes in dry rocky or sandy conditions. Old friends, as the vegetation of New York State is much the same as ours.
A striking aspect of Central Park is the huge outcroppings of bedrock that shaped the 1850s design by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Thank goodness for the vision of those who designated the original 778 acres on Manhattan! Let's remember their names, as well as those who sacrificed, but whose names were never recorded. I find it instructive to recall how Central Park was born as, in our own time, efforts to set aside and preserve urban green space continue to be met with obstinate political opposition. The prime movers were American landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing, Croton Aqueduct Board president Nicholas Dean (a reservoir in Central Park was to be an essential element of the city’s drinking water supply system) and poet and New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant (the delightful Bryant Park, next to the main branch of the New York City Library, is named after him).