No, I'd never been to the Conservatory Garden in Central Park in my lifetime as a New Yorker. The enormous gates, donated by the Vanderbilts, lured us into this guest park late one afternoon last weekend. These frolicksome maidens didn't seem to feel the chill.
According to the park's official site, "The northern, French-style garden showcases parterres of germander and
spectacular seasonal displays of spring tulips, and Korean
chrysanthemums in autumn, all within an ellipse of Japanese holly. In
the center is the charming 'Three Dancing Maidens' fountain by German
sculptor, Walter Schott, which once stood at the home of Samuel
Untermyer's estate, Greystone, in the Bronx."
The garden has what they call great "bones"...design that stands its ground in any season, with or without flounces of flowers.
A rose whose petals are as papery as a dowager's cheek, and a bud that will never bloom, caught the sun's last rays.
The trees in this allee are pink and white crabapples; they framed a stately Italianate rectangle of snow crowned by a skeletal pergola.
In spring, apparently, it all explodes in bloom. (See the park's aerial shot, below.) On this February day, aside from one dog-walker, we had it all to ourselves.
The mysterious clearings on the southern end of Prospect Park are larger and more open since Sandy, but have lost none of their air of remoteness and melancholy. Stumps are everywhere, although the park has done an amazing job at picking up the deadfall.
Speaking of mystery, what means this message carved on one of the storm's survivors? I took it as an omen, and looked down as I scuffed through the leaves.
The world below is this guy's pantry.
A trail of rose petals led to the lakeside, where a lone mom and her baby watched the ducks.
It led to the scene of a recent celebration involving "Crazy Stallion" malt liquor and this evocative tableau. Latex and a feather...how saucy, and also, in December, how nippy.
No thin ice yet, but it's coming; if the world really is getting warmer, thin ice may be the only kind we'll get, ever.
When I entered the park by the Peristyle, I looked down and found this amputated rose. Then the petals later...but I couldn't figure out what it meant (unless perhaps St. Therese was "friending" and "poking" me like the overage teenager that she is). I left the rose on a bench, to mystify someone else on a cloudy afternoon.
I was holed up inside on this dark and misty day, but my friend Karen the Intrepid Artist headed over to Prospect Park, where apparently God is shooting day for night in old-fashioned Technicolor or something. She insists this has not been Instagrammed or otherwise messed with. In a bit of typical Today's Tech, she posted the picture to Facebook as I sat at my computer a few blocks away, making me feel both cozy and deprived at the same time.
This time of year, just before Thanksgiving, I love the last bits of gold that cling to the dark foresty bits. But the foliage, and the forest, got walloped in the home stretch by a double shot of Sandy and snow, making "Caution" tape a common sight this November fluttering on piles of fallen branches.
A walk along Wellhouse Drive revealed plenty of gold, and even green, still spangling the woods on Lookout Hill.
But this ginkgo, which is a personal friend of mine, stood broken and battered. The truck underneath appeared to have just dragged the electric boat Independence out of the lake; the poor boat was covered with bird poo and feathers, and its future is uncertain.
There's a lot more big sky along the lakeside, where more old friends are suddenly missing.
But a few revelers are left at the autumn party. This seems to be a witch hazel of some sort by the Greenwood Avenue playground; I thought witch hazel only bloomed in January.
If this isn't "scarlet oak," it should be. It was "blooming" near the Maryland Monument, with its evocation of spilled patriots' blood.
Did you know that the fall colors have been in the leaves all along, just waiting for the green to fade away and reveal them? I hope I grow old like a leaf.
Well, it sounds better than "deadfall." We need no Bond villainesses; we had one named Sandy. She specialized in gruesome deaths, including this spectacular impalement along Prospect Park Southwest...and this twisted victim nearby.
Near the Coney Island Avenue traffic circle entrance, Sandy's arboreal body count piled up, in what looked like a dam built by giant beavers.
These mechanical beavers tore the pile apart, filling dumpster after dumpster with casualties of a hurricane followed days later by a crippling blanket of leaden snow.
Even as they worked, the park drive coursed with joggers, walkers, and folks just glad to be back out in our battered park and shell-shocked city.
Underfoot: reminders that nature eventually makes her own amends.
...we will follow up Hurricane Sandy with lots of heavy, wet snow. Yes, it's purty alright; this picture was snapped by Peggy Knipp, an indomitable old friend, who (when not planning celebrities' honeymoons) can be found zooming around hard-hit areas with trunkloads of donations...and, often, scooping up my child for a lift to school, because she has never met anything she can't rescue. Somehow, amid all this, she managed to get a beauty shot of Prospect Park under its fleeting mantle of snow. It's forecast to be sunny and in the 60s by Sunday...if there are any trees left by then, I think we'd better all go out and hug them.
I confess: I was grateful that Prospect Park was formally closed (if easily entered anyway) for days in the sad aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It seems like yesterday that Irene felled so many great trees, and now so many more have fallen. I'm a coward, and still haven't gone in; what was visible along the periphery (Prospect Park Southwest, below) was heart-rending enough.
Others, however, are not only brave but damn hard-working. Here's an excellent report from WNYC on the arboreal carnage in the park and the gutsy volunteers helping to start cleaning up (at least before the coming storm interrupts their cleanup of the last one):
As Sandy prepares to make landfall, and we worry about the giant tree over our own house, Prospect Park is already feeling the wrath. The park's Facebook page posted this picture (I know exactly where this is on the Neathermead because of that unique tree behind the fallen one), and they report:
is a very limited staff working in the Park today and they are using
extreme caution while they check on the condition of the Park. One of
them sent in this photo during their inspection rounds.
branches and 2 trees are down in the Park so far as a result of the
gusting winds. We have a report that one of the downed tress nearly hit a
runner. Please stay out of the Park for your own safety and the safety