Flowering Crabapple (Malus floribunda)
Crabapples are popularly known as “jewels of the landscape” and given their ability to excite the senses throughout the year it is no surprise that they have earned such a sobriquet. There are few plants on the landscape that create greater intrigue or visual impact during all four seasons than the flowering crabapple. From the first pearly buds of spring to the spectacular floral displays of early summer the trees entice us with their ability to entice our imaginations and confound our expectations. Mid-summer fruit transforms slowly until it is revealed spectacularly by the falling leaves of fall. Then the arrival of winter accents the fruit, branches and exquisite outline created by the tree’s shape.
Perhaps the most magnificent stand of extant “vintage” crabapple trees in New York City parks grows here in the Conservatory Gardens of Central Park. Here, two allées (tree-lined paths) form boundaries between the formal gardens, each panel with a distinctive style and heritage. The trees are nearly 30 feet tall and form an arching canopy above the stone walkway and benches beneath. In the winter and early spring, the branches reveal their twisted, craggy, encompassing architecture. In the spring and summer the space beneath the trees is like a tunnel, where sound and light are muted and air is stilled by the surrounding blossoms, flowers, and leaves. It is thought that these trees are the originals planted in the original Garden in 1937.
Whatever their pedigree these stands of trees form one of the most idyllic scenes to be found anywhere in Central Park, especially in mid-summer, when the benches that line them can be found occupied by any number of park visitors who, while only scant yards from Fifth Ave., are sure miles away in their minds.
One of the hidden wonders of Central Park is the Conservatory Garden at Fifth Avenue and 105th St. A secluded oasis, just a few steps down from one of the City’s busiest thoroughfares; the garden offers a fragrant respite from the gasp and clatter of the urban afternoon.