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How NYC Parks Makes Your Spring

When you walk through our parks in early April, you’ll find flowering plums and cherries, red maples, crocuses, tulips, daffodils, hellebores, trout lilies, forsythia, violets, hyacinths, and viburnums in full bloom. This array of plants brings life and color to New York City, cleaning the air and making your day better.

But how does it work? We talked to some of our most talented gardeners to find out what goes in the ground!

Forest Park Garden
Hyacinths, daffodils, forsythia, and red maple trees in bloom at Jackson Pond Playground in Forest Park, Queens. Photo by Elizabeth Ripotola

Bringing Spring to a Park Near You

Kappock Greenstreet
Kappock Street and Independence Avenue Greenstreet island in the Bronx. Photo by Elizabeth Ripotola

There's a lot of advance planning that goes into a beautiful spring. Spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall at almost all Parks gardens, playgrounds, and Greenstreet islands.

Bronx Victory Memorial Garden
Tulips line a path leading to Pelham Bay Park's Bronx Victory Memorial Garden. Photo by Marechal Brown

When planting for spring, our gardeners consider palettes and patterns that complement the garden’s location, history, public art, weather conditions, and most importantly, what New Yorkers like to see in bloom.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade Garden
Tulips at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Garden. Photo courtesy of the Promenade Garden Conservancy

This year, 2,000 crocuses and 4,500 tulips of all colors will make their debut at one of Brooklyn’s most scenic spots–The Brooklyn Heights Promenade Garden, an award-winning, seasonal garden maintained by Gardener Matthew Morrow and the Promenade Garden Conservancy.

Shady Walk in Cadman Plaza
Shady Walk at Clark Street and Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn. Photo by Marechal Brown

Planting New Yorkers’ favorite plants and flowers is a top priority for Gardener John Vei, one of nearly 30 Brooklyn gardeners making our Brooklyn parks prettier this spring. He’s growing hyacinths, crocuses, forsythia, and dogwoods at Shady Walk, a charming garden that he’s been maintaining for the past 30 years!

Getting Growing in our Greenhouses

Forest Park Greenhouse
The Forest Park Greenhouse in Queens. Photo credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Our nurseries grow many of their own plants from seeds, stems, and root cuttings taken from mature plants in our parks.

The Forest Park Greenhouse in Queens grows tens of thousands of plants for flowerbeds throughout Queens and Brooklyn. The bulbs and plants are shipped to us or purchased from local vendors or commercial nurseries, then planted directly in our gardens or grown at our own nurseries and greenhouses. Take a look at how we grow plants at our Citywide Nursery in the Bronx

Peter Pan Garden
The Peter Pan Garden at Carl Schurz Park. Photo by Crista Carmody

Most of our flowering bulbs are grown in Holland; our annuals travel from tropical regions in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America; and native plants come from our region. 

Greenhouse at Greenbelt Native Plant Center
The Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island. Photo credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center, a 13-acre greenhouse, nursery, and seed-bank complex on Staten Island, grows plants from wild-collected native seeds. It’s where Rockaway Beach’s beach grass is grown!

Living With Wildlife

Conference House Park Deer Resistant Garden
A deer-resistant garden at Conference House Park last fall. Photo by Crista Carmody

A new kind of garden started growing in fall 2016 at  Wolfe’s Pond Park and Conference House Park on Staten Island, where we're seeing a greater presence of deer. Since deer love to eat garden plants and flowers, these Wildlife NYC Deer-Resistant Demonstration Gardens are growing hardy hibiscus, sneezeweed, sweet pepper bush, red stem dogwood, daffodils, blue-eyed grass, and other perennials and native shrubs that deer are less likely to eat.

The gardens will bloom for the first time ever when spring peaks this year. The plants were grown at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, then prepped and installed by our horticultural crew at the Silver Lake Greenhouse. Both trial gardens are currently open year-round to the public. Stop by and get some inspiration for your own garden!

Remembering Our Past

Spring is also a time of reflection, and flowers can help us remember how New Yorkers have come together in times of crisis.

Daffodils in Morningside Park
Daffodils in bloom at Morningside Park, Manhattan. Photo credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Through New York for Parks’ Daffodil Project, thousands of daffodils are planted in parks each year, in remembrance of September 11. More than six million daffodils have been planted since the project started in 2001. In 2007, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg named the daffodil NYC's official flower.

Sandy Memorial Garden in Kivlehan Park
The Sandy Memorial Garden in Kivlehan Park, Staten Island. Photo by Marechal Brown

At the (Superstorm) Sandy Memorial Garden in Staten Island’s Kivlehan Park, cherry trees, hydrangeas, daisies, “happy returns” daylilies, “gold lace” junipers, “knockout red” shrub roses, “fireworks” goldenrods, and autumnal cherry trees grow in dedication to the resilience of the residents of Staten Island. In the spring, daffodils and hyacinths welcome visitors to the garden in this east-shore park.

The garden was first planted in September 2013 with help from the Staten Island Horticulture Volunteer groups Timberland, Boots on the Ground, and Staten Island OutReach. The garden is currently maintained by the Friends of Kivlehan Park

Volunteering at Our Gardens

Woman planting flowers
A group of volunteers tend to flowers in East River Park in Manhattan. Photo credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Looking to help grow your local park gardens? To get started, reach out to your park’s Community Outreach Coordinator at Partnerships for Parks.

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