As you enter the Conservatory Garden at 105th and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, NYC, through the Vanderbilt gates, the view you behold is of the Italian Garden. At the center of this spectacular view is a vast lawn bordered by clipped yews, a central fountain and tiered hedges incorporated into the natural hillside. Directly adjacent to the lawn on both the north and south sides, flanking the yews that border the lawn are two luxurious allées of crabapples.
An allée was a feature of the French formal garden (circa 1700’s). It is a walkway lined with trees or tall shrubs, sometimes considered a promenade or an extension of a view. It either ended in a terminal feature or seemingly continued to oblivion. However, it’s origin may be found in ancient Roman landscapes as it was commonplace to build a road or promenade lined on both sides with trees.
The crabapples in the Conservatory Garden flanking the lawn usually reach their peak bloom in late April, but due to the early warm weather, the blooms were forced this past week. One side is pink, the other white. These mature crabapples were transported down the Hudson River on barges for the original opening of the garden in 1937, rather than the renovation done in the mid eighties by Lynden Miller.
These mature crabapples have magnificent structure, their vase shape creates not only an allee, but also a canopy, a false ceiling as you walk or sit underneath it. The allée is dreamy, restful and engaging… and for a week when the crabapples are in bloom, the petals gently drop, dancing their way down, as snowflakes, down upon the yews and bluestone paving below… dappled spots of sunlight filter through the canopy and rest on the groundplane…an enchanting vision all told. The nearby lilacs (also early in their bloom) in the adjoined English garden have added to this sensory delight and perfumed the air.A magnificent garden, a “dessert” for the senses anytime of year that you visit. This is a public garden, which attracts visitors of all ages, in the tradition of the great European public spaces.