Save for Central Park, when people think about New York City, they don’t imagine fresh, green spaces teeming with butterflies, flowers, bees and trees. However, the city is chock-full of secret gardens hidden behind fences, down alleyways, on roofs, and in many restaurants. Of course, one of Gotham’s most glorious gardens can be found at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. There they showcase 250 acres of forest, carefully curated gardens and a glorious conservatory, all just a quick trip on the Metro-North train or a subway ride away. But, for those seeking something a little closer to Manhattan for some natural reprieve, these five gardens are worth stumbling into, whether you go to read a book, have a bite or simply to take in the view.
One of the best restaurant gardens in the city, the stunning backyard at this Brooklyn absinthe bar channels New Orleans not only with its drinks, but with the low hanging plants, trellises blooming with greenery and sweet garden tables scattered throughout. Order a plate of raw oysters, cool fennel salad, and a glass of La Muse Verte, and pretend you are in the south — south of Uptown that is.
Located inside the Episcopal church’s grounds, this two-thirds-of-an-acre plot in the West Village is one of the most esteemed gardens around, though many people who live in the city don’t know about it. Here you can walk along the bright green lawns, admire native American flora such as common yarrow, ferns and roses, and relax on one of the many wooden benches. It’s a pleasant break from all the hustle of the city, without taking you outside of it.
When chef John Mooney opened this local, organic and sustainable American restaurant in the West Village, the aeroponic rooftop garden was all part of the plan. Now, the lush garden grows heirloom tomatoes, leafy greens and herbs that they use in dishes such as the living leaf salads, zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese, and in the special Dill With It, a libation made up of strawberries, cucumber, lemon, dill, cava and huckleberry vodka. Though you can’t see the garden from below, if you dine at this cozy eatery and ask real nice, a staff member will give you a tour.
Often overlooked in lieu of the New York and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Queens’ version is just 45 minutes from Manhattan, and offers a quiet retreat amidst its 39 acres of luscious greenery. The garden was created in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair, and since then, visitors have enjoyed frolicking though the wetland, woodland, meadow, wedding garden, arboretum and the fragrance walk, a path designed specifically to tantalize your nose with aromatic perennials and shrubs.
At this darling café in Nolita, you can walk past the open-air front and quaint tables, and choose to dine alfresco in its stylish backyard. All around the patio, plants grow in neat lines, as if the restaurant decided to take up residence in a private garden. Nibble on avocado and salmon tartare, spicy Moroccan cod or fries laced with pecorino, and enjoy the air-cleansing greenery before taking back to the dusty Big Apple streets.
Photos Courtesy of Bell Book and Candle and Linnea Covington