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Reenvisioning a Traditional Garden

Jul 4, 2023 News

Reenvisioning a Traditional Garden

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This past winter, swathes of the park’s signature Prunus laurocerasus hedges, also known as cherry laurel, sustained significant damage. The combination of summer drought, a warm winter, and extreme fluctuations in temperature stressed plants to the point of death. With extreme weather events becoming more common, the Horticulture Team was left to ponder long-term solutions.

New evergreen bones were needed for the garden. Not only did these important plants provide verdant winter interest, but they helped frame all of the beautiful flowers on display throughout the seasons. Would it be wise to take a chance on another uniform and single species planting like the cherry laurels? Or was it time to think of a more diverse and naturalistic approach? 

Ultimately, the Horticulture Team made the decision to replace the cherry laurels with a mixed evergreen border consisting of Pieris japonica, Ilex crenata ‘Compacta,’ and various Rhododendron species. This array of different plants allows us to hedge our bets in the event one of these species is harmed or affected by the increasing number of weather, disease, and pest challenges in the gardens. 

So far, the new border has proven visually tremendous,  and continues to provide an evergreen framework that now offers new texture and flowering elements. As extreme weather becomes a more common occurrence, we will continue to evaluate the garden’s resilience. These plantings will also help save energy. Formally, sheared hedges required significant maintenance, much of which is done by mechanical equipment.

The next time you are in Madison Square Park, take a moment to enjoy a walk near the reflecting pool in the  north end, where you can admire these new plants and be dazzled by color, texture, and scent. It is buzzing with life and will inspire you to think about little steps that can make a difference in building a more resilient world each day.

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