I’m only now coming to fully appreciate what a treasure Morningside Park is. For a park with what seems like fairly minimal maintenance, there is a surprising diversity of plants to discover in it. There’s also a wide diversity of conditions in the park, from more sunny borders, to woodland areas, to rock faces, to grassy slopes, to walled in beds. It’s a good place to study plants that will survive with minimal care and in endless competition with weeds. It also gives unique perspectives, as you are level with the canopy on Morningside Drive, which allows a great appreciation of the maple blossoms right now (its yellow plays off the colors in all the greens, yellows and reds of new foliage), before descending into the park and down through the sloping paths.
The park isn’t going to win awards, overshadowed as it is by its world-renowned neighbor, but every time I walk through I realize that there are some gardeners working their magic. Little vignettes appear that are too interesting to be results of chance. Although sometimes I think someone is just throwing stuff in the woods and seeing if it comes back; as my knowledge of trees and shrubs grows, I’m always stumbling across a new one duking it out in the jungle. And some choices are baffling. Like why is a lovely combination of yellow magnolia and a variety of pink cherries hemmed in by the basketball court and fenced off completely from the sidewalk? And why is there a random grouping of 3 shrubs featuring both a white Viburnum carlesii (with strong hits of pink) and a huge red flowering quince? But then there’s a really lovely blushing white crabapple growing out of the rock with white bleeding heart beneath it and I’m captivated.