Lynden Miller and her Central Park Conservatory Garden

A while back I took my landscape design studio class from Columbia University (I teach there)  to a powerpoint presentation given by the 'grande dame' of New York City gardens, Lynden Miller.

 It was a fabulous talk about the various gardens she has installed all over New York and the impact they have had on city life..

(BTW, we saw Lynden at the N.Y. Horticultural Society, which has a fantastic horticultural library - open to all - on 37th Street at 7 Avenue.)

Wow! What a legacy Mrs. Miller will leave.  She specializes in glorious mixed flower and plant borders which you can find in all parts of the city.

Lynden calls her gardens 'sanctuaries for the soul in the city' and that they are.

Lynden Miller has been, in my estimation, the modern driving force behind the beautifying of New York.   Her first commission was to restore the aged and forgotten six acre garden called Central Park Conservatory Garden....

As Director, Mrs. Miller raised an endowment for this grand garden's  renovation and long term care. She raised private funds, redesigned the plantings, hired qualified staff and organized  a dedicated volunteer group of gardeners. Today hordes of people enjoy this special place at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street.

Of course, it is especially crowded in Spring.  There are weddings galore and don't even try to go there on Mother's Day - its full. 
To enter you must pass through the Vanderbilt Gate, one of the best examples of wrought iron work in New York City and a popular photo spot.

The Conservatory Garden is filled with heirloom roses, English yew, barberry, holly and, of course, "Manhattan" Euonymus.  It is divided into three distinct sections, each representing its own specific style. These are the north (or French Garden), the Central (or Italian Garden) and the south (or English Garden).

(this photo from a wonderful photostream by Trish Mayo at Flikr - a very talented photographer! )

What Lynden Miller has done in restoring the Conservatory Garden, and all the other gardens she has installed in NY,  is remarkable.  You must know that when I was growing up in the city there were no gardens other than our botanical gardens.  Sure, we had the magnificent Central Park but there were no formal flower gardens to speak of.  Flowers were few and far between then. Nothing like today.

This designer deserves recognition!  Buy her book, Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape and see the amazing things this pioneering and wise gardener soul  has done!

Without Lynden Miller, New York City would be a much more solemn, gray place.


  1. How interesting, I love to learn the history of Central Park, one of my favorite places on earth. I love books, also, so I must buy Lynden Miller's book. I especially can't wait to buy a book written by you...

  2. The book is fantastic, and really details a number of the other smaller projects Ms. Miller has worked on--like the park in Red Hook, and the one at Park Avenue and 96th Street. It was truly inspiring to hear her speak about her philosophy of designing for people's enjoyment and well-being.

  3. Laurie Olson: Well Jan, thanks! I just put theCentral Park Conservatory Gardenon our list of places to see when we visit NYC in April! Hope to see you and Rafael, too!

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  5. You might want to know that the New York committee of the garden club of America was instrumental in the restoration of that garden - its founders were contacted by mayor Koch and the then parks department - they raised the funds , organized volunteers , brought in supplies , removed graffiti, restored the Untermeyer fountain ( with ms Miller as one of those volunteers ) while her accomplishments are vast and appreciated by many the roots for it all should be known

    1. That should be better known! Thanks so much and yay for the Garden Club of America!

    2. That should be better known! Thanks so much and yay for the Garden Club of America!


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