Spring in the Garden
Compared with most other parks in New York City, Bryant Park enjoys a relatively early spring. The shelter of the surrounding buildings and the large vault–containing the Public Library’s miles of stacks–under the lawn create a warm zone. And some of the more recently constructed high rises, such as the Bank of America Tower, are sheathed in reflective glass, which bounces sunlight, like a heat lamp, back into the park.
We inaugurate the season in our more than 30,000 square feet of cultivated plantings with 100,000 daffodils, which begin to sprout green foliage in February and are in full bloom sometime in March. Because they naturalize well, we leave them to multiply in the ivy beds surrounding the central lawn, where they make bright punctuation marks amid the deep green. Tulips, an especially colorful sign of spring, bloom in the various flower beds throughout the park. This year, we are using Tulipa ‘Orange Queen’ along Fifth Avenue and Tulipa ‘Barcelona’ (this issue’s highlight) in the planters. The latter, joined by Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Delft Blue’ (Dutch Hyacinth) and Narcissus ‘Yellow Premier,’ are massed along the entrance perimeter of the Bryant Park Grill. To extend the bloom over the season, we plant a mix of three types of tulip along the perennial beds: ‘Pink Impression,’ which begins to open in late April, and the tall, white-blooming ‘Maureen’ and the shorter purple ‘Cum Laude,’ which follow in early May.
Spring is also migration season, and early-morning visitors might spot some smaller avian travelers – Whitethroated Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, and the like – in and around the plantings.
- Maureen Hackett, Director of Horticulture
Highlight: Tulipa - 'Barcelona'
‘Barcelona’ is a beautiful fuschia tulip, with short, sturdy stems and the traditional wine-glass shape. A cross between ‘Darwin’ and ‘Early Tulips,’ ‘Barcelona’ is equally successful in the garden and the greenhouse, making it ideal for use in planters. Though these tulips stand alone nicely, they are even more effective surrounded by ‘Blue Pansy’ and ‘Algerian ivy,’ as they are here in Bryant Park. Tulips are closely associated with the Netherlands, to which they were brought from the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century. They became wildly popular, setting off a speculative frenzy known as “tulip mania”–a Dutch Golden Age version of the dot com bubble–during which the price of a bulb soared quickly and, as quickly, collapsed.
It’s not just the flowers that bloom in the spring: various shrubs, trees, and groundcovers also enhance the landscape. The cherry genus (Prunus) always adds liveliness, performs year after year with minimal care, and, with its many varieties, extends the period of interest in the garden. We use Prunus x cistena (commonly called Sand Cherry), a tall shrub-like plant whose delicate pink spring-time blooms are followed by burgundy-colored foliage; and the evergreen Prunus laurocerasus, with its horizontal branching and glossy dark green leaves, blossoms with masses of white bottle-brush-like flowers in early June.
Bryant Park is a horticulturist’s delight, with six meticulously maintained flower beds bordering the Lawn. The flower beds include over 100 woody plants, herbaceous perennials and annuals, 200 planters 100,000 daffodils, and 20,000 other seasonal bulbs.
Accentuating the European atmosphere at the park are twin promenades running north and south of the Lawn. Lined with tall, graceful London Plane trees, these allées are modeled after those at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.
Bryant Park’s Lawn, where thousands of nature-starved office workers gather for lunch on any fine weekday, is planted with a rye/fescue/bluegrass mix. The lawn is as long as a football field (300 feet) and 215 feet wide.