Great cities have great parks, and great parks have great horticulture. One person who knows the most about this is Lynden Miller, the director of the Central Park Conservatory Garden and public garden designer of many of New York City’s other outdoor oases.
Drawing on lessons learned from revitalizing the Conservatory Garden, Madison Square Park, Bryant Park and more in New York City (and other cities), Miller is now sharing her knowledge in the new book, Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape.
The book is partly a case statement on why great spaces and horticulture are important to parks and cities. Miller notes that “The general public, professional urban designers, architects, landscape architects, and city governments need to realize the tremendous importance of beautification to the health and economic welfare of cities. Outdoor spaces with ivy and a little grass to mask the concrete are not enough. Beautiful parks and gardens in the city are not a frill; they are essential to the well-being of citizens.” And the book’s final chapter is devoted to the “Power of Plants and Parks,” noting how New Yorkers flocked to the refuge of city parks, especially the Conservatory Garden after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
The other part of the book, however, contains brass-tacks advice on how to actually get to the place where there is power in parks: designing gardens and mixing plants correctly, managing soil conditions, maintaining gardens (down to the correct way to cut plants), cultivating volunteers and creating public-private partnerships and funding mechanisms.
Anyone interested in beautifying the urban landscape, and looking for both inspiration and applicable advice to get there would benefit from this book.