One of my recent bike rides was to a part of Central Park I had never before visited: the Conservatory Garden. 

According to the Central Park Conservancy website: The Conservatory Garden is a 6-acre formal garden located at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. The garden is surrounded by the magnificent wrought-iron “Vanderbilt Gate”, which was made in Paris in 1894 and originally stood at the Vanderbilt Mansion on 5th Avenue.

The Italianate Center Garden is pictured below. It features a large lawn bordered by yew hedges and a 12-foot jet fountain with stairs leading to a Wisteria Pergola within which a stone walkway bears medallions inscribed with the names of the original 13 states. On either side stand exquisite allées that showcase rows of crabapple trees, bursting with pink and white blooms every spring.

To the north, the French-style Garden offers spectacular seasonal displays of tulips each spring and Korean chrysanthemums in autumn, all within an ellipse of Japanese holly. At the Garden’s center stands the Untermyer Fountain, featuring the “Three Dancing Maidens” by German sculptor Walter Schott.

In the center of the oval pool, the statue features three joyful young women dancing gracefully as they stretch their arms out to one another. The dancing movement is reinforced with the jets that shoot water in curved arcs above the pool.

The fountain sculpture was originally located at the Yonkers estate of Samuel Untermyer, a prominent lawyer and civic leader in his day. (Stay tuned for a visit to the Untermer Gardens.) His children donated the sculpture to Central Park after his death in 1947. It is unknown how he originally came to make the cast or where he got the original sculpture, which was completed in Germany before 1910.

The intimate and colorful English-style South Garden bears special significance for literature lovers. At its heart is a small lily pond which features a sculpted memorial to children’s book author Frances Hodgson Burnett. The statues in the work by sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh evoke the characters Mary and Dickon, the protagonists of Hodgson Burnett’s beloved book The Secret Garden. The pool and memorial are bordered by trees, shrubs, and perennial and annual flower beds, as well as a slope of woodland plants at its western edge.

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