Central Park extends to 843 acres and was originally opened in 1857 to a design by Frederick Law Olmsted, a pioneering landscape architect, responsible for many public spaces in the USA. It is larger than London's Hyde Park which extends to only 350 acres but acts in a similar way as the 'city's lung'. Every day people can be seen walking, cycling, jogging or just enjoying the open air, green lawns and many mature trees. At weekends it is traffic free. The park has been through various phases of decline and restoration and is today beautifully managed largely by the Central Park Conservancy, a non-for profit organization which raises 85% of the park's annual budget of $37 million. In our brief visit we saw barely a glimpse of this extensive park. Central Park contains many features including eight lakes and ponds, a pinetum, a classic carousel built in 1903, sports fields, an open air theatre and a zoo.
The only real garden in the park is the Conservatory Garden, a six acre enclosure marking the position of a conservatory that stood on the site from 1898 to 1934. Today, the site is divided into three areas in an Italianate style. The central area is a formal lawn flanked by crabapples with formal water feature and fountain. Either side are two flower gardens. To one side there is a circular garden, planted with hardy chrysanthemums and spring tulips, neither of which we could experience. The third area is a beautifully planted flower garden, very much in the English style with great plant associations and some interesting half-hardies and exotics. Well worth the visit!