I traveled to New York City with my daughter on October 10 to see public gardens. On Saturday, our first full day in New York, a chilly rain didn’t keep us from visiting Wave Hill, a 28-acre estate garden in the Bronx with a million-dollar view of the Hudson River and the Palisades, sheer cliffs of exposed, vertically striated stone on the opposite shore.
Wave Hill had a succession of owners and a few famous tenants between its construction in 1843 and 1960, when it was deeded to the City of New York. Mark Twain leased the place from 1901 to 1903, and as a boy Theodore Roosevelt summered here with his family. Two houses and a conservatory remain today, along with gardens acclaimed for their horticultural artistry.
We took the train for the 30-minute ride from midtown out to the Bronx, and from there a Wave Hill shuttle took us to the garden. Away from the bustle of the streets of Manhattan, we found ourselves in a serene oasis, with the soft dripping of rain and birdsong in our ears instead of honking horns and whooshing subways. You enter to views of a sweeping lawn leading to a long, vine-draped pergola. The river and Palisades view just beyond was partly obscured by mist.
Let’s save the pergola garden and turn right toward the simply named Flower Garden, a formally arranged garden of exuberant, colorful plant combos, surrounded by a Chippendale-style cedar fence and arbors.
Tall grasses partly screen the view as you enter.
Blackberry lily, tall verbena, and blanketflower add to the fall scene.
Pink cosmos threads through the grasses.
A wide brick walk runs through the center of the garden, with rustic cedar arbors and benches bookending the space. An impressive conservatory overlooks the garden.
Turning around, you can see the river and Palisades through a window in the arbor.
Paralleling the brick walk is a narrow stone path along the perimeter. Chartreuse plants glow even on this misty morning.
Glancing over the fence you see the lawn, with pairs of the famous Wave Hill chairs inviting you to sit and enjoy the view — on drier days, anyway.
Looking across the center of the garden, you see the conservatory framed by four fastigiate trees in pots. The bronze mound in the center is oxalis.
Yes, oxalis! I tried to part the foliage in order to discover how the mound was created: tiered containers, or mounded soil, or just a monstrous single plant? (Couldn’t be!) But it was raining pretty steadily by now, and I couldn’t juggle camera, camera bag, and umbrella well enough to look. It remains a mystery.
Looking to the far end of the garden you see the other arbor. Evergreen shrubs add year-round structure.
Turning around, here’s the opposite view.
I enjoyed this rich, purple foliage accented by orange and peach sunset hues.
Bold dahlias stole the show.
Red berries on a yellowing, potted tree make a pretty fall scene too.
Peach dahlias complement the bronze oxalis mound.
It’s such a textural garden, invitingly touchable, with sophisticated color combos.
We took a quick peek inside the conservatory, but aside from a few tables of succulents it wasn’t that interesting. So let’s go back to the pergola overlooking the Hudson.
Packed with potted plants and hung with vines, the pergola is essentially a container garden on steroids.
My daughter, investigating a plant or a fallen leaf from the shelter of her umbrella
Tearing my eyes away from the pergola garden, I paused to admire the mist-shrouded view from a handsome stone balustrade.
A double stair leads to the lawn below…
…and to the Elliptical Garden, formerly the site of a swimming pool.
Twin golden pots mark the entry to this small garden.
Concrete benches offer contemplative places to rest.
I love the melancholy, going-to-seed splendor of the autumn garden.
There are wooded trails to explore below the Elliptical Garden, but they were muddy and overhung with dripping foliage, so we headed back to the balustrade stairs and the pergola.
Summer’s zinnias were still hanging on.
Ivy was hanging too.
Back in the main gardens I admired the fall color in this scene: burgundy foliage and purple beautyberries.
We liked this cheerful vegetable garden too, planted along a vine-swagged, golden-yellow fence in the Paisley Bed, so named for its comma shape. The Paisley Bed is redone every year to new effect, so you won’t see the same design twice.
The Flower Garden and pergola views were gorgeous, but the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Wave Hill visit, which includes the dramatic Monocot Garden and pond, Mediterranean-style Dry Garden, and windswept Wild Garden.
For a look back at my 2-part tour of the High Line, click here.
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