Blossoms on the Upper West Side – Summer Solstice Edition – West Side Rag

Meg A Parsont

Fireflies make their debut in Central Park and Riverside Park, roses bloom in the gardens next to the clay tennis courts in Joan of Arc Park and Riverside Park, and thousands of people gathered on the Great Lawn of Central Park earlier this week. Time to hear the Philharmonic – all the happy signs that summer is coming. On June 21, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, community gardens on the Upper West Side are entering full summer mode.

Meg A. Parsont’s Astilbe at 91st Street Gardens.

in 91stone The street garden at the promenade level of Riverside Park, where orange, pink and scarlet (Lilium Night Flyer) lilies sprouted and bloomed on many plots. There are also clusters of golden Stella D’Oro lilies on the perimeter of the octagon and in several plots near the garden gate. Astilbe, a perennial with elegant feathered flowers, appears throughout the garden in shades of crimson, lilac and white.

Meg A. Parsont’s clematis in the 91st Street Garden.

In Octagon, look for the palest purple climbing clematis, and in Rectangle you can’t miss its spectacular amethyst cousin.

Meg A. Parsont’s Julia Child rises at the 91st Street Garden.

While you’re there, be sure to take a moment to say hello to the Julia Child rose at the entrance. Julia Child loves butter and this rose is the perfect buttery yellow which is fitting!

Lace hydrangeas by Meg A. Parsont at the 91st Street Garden.

Another popular symbol of summer is the hydrangea. At the north end of the octagon, look for the lilac lace hat (hydrangea) with its flat cap and gorgeous frilled edge. The center disc consists of small, short flowers surrounded by showy lace blooms. There are several other species of hydrangeas in the garden, including fluffy, long-lasting white blooms along the western edge of the rectangle. Under the right conditions, they can grow very quickly: a small plot I planted on my plot two years ago is now over three feet tall and full of oversized blooms!

Lily “Arabian Knight” Matagon in the Lotus Garden, Shanna Forlano.

At the Lotus Garden on 97th Street, everything tends to be a week or so behind because it’s more shady than the 91st Street Garden or the West Side Community Garden. Most of their lilies are just getting started, except for the jewel-like miniature lily in the far east, the red-and-yellow Martagon Lily.

Bluebells in the Lotus Garden, Shanna Forlano.

Pink bell-shaped bellflowers still thrive, including bellflower Posharskyana (Serbian bellflower), which grows close to the ground, and “Olympica” bellflower, aka the bell of Scotland.

Roundleaf bellflower ‘Olympica’ in a lotus garden, by Shanna Forlano

Bluebells are a popular perennial, and this particular species is especially popular in Scotland, where it is fondly referred to in many poems and songs.

Graham Thomas Rising in the Lotus Garden, Shanna Forlana.

Keep an eye out for the lovely lilac and white clematis, including one purchased at Trader Joe’s that has been successfully transformed from a houseplant to an outdoor garden plant. More roses continue to bloom every day, including the ivory Lark Ascending and the yellow Graham Thomas.

Lilies in the Westside Community Garden, by Meg A. Parsont.

At the Westside Community Garden, perennials and recently planted annuals have filled the flower beds where tulips once dominated. Lilies make their debut, along with astilbe, hydrangeas and bright red bee balm (Monarda), a native plant that is very attractive to pollinators.

Fritillaria and Impatiens in the Westside Community Garden, by Meg A. Parsont.

Near the 89th Street entrance, there are also two carefully arranged beds of impatiens and fritillary (a gorgeously toned and patterned foliage plant) in pink and green.

Hydrangea at the Westside Community Garden.

The path leading to the 90th Street entrance is flanked by striking white oak leaf hydrangeas and fluffy white hydrangeas interspersed with red roses. A bright red hibiscus just bloomed in an alcove on the path. I was surprised to see the low-key, off-white hellebore still blooming in several plots. This perennial is the first to appear in late February/early March and has won the award for longest blooming flower in the garden.

With so many plants about to bloom, this is a great time to visit a community garden on the Upper West Side. Happy summer everyone!

91stone Street Garden just aired live in New York, on WNBC-TV.watch it here.

Plan a visit:

West End Community Garden (89-90th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue)
Open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk
Concerts in the Garden – Mark Your Calendar:
June 19, 6-7pm: Federico Diáz Argentenian duo, vocals/guitar
June 26th 6-7pm: Scot Munson Jazz Quintet

lotus garden (97th Street between West End Avenue and Broadway)
Open to the public on Sundays from April 10th to mid-November from 1pm to 4pm

91stone street garden Promenade level at Riverside Park
Open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk

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