Wave Hill

Entering Wave Hill garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Entering Wave Hill garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My family and friends know that when it comes to driving into New York City and the surrounding areas, I’d rather take a train than deal with the crazy traffic.  But last week I took a day off and braved it, driving (no GPS-just printed Google directions) into the Bronx to visit one of my favorite gardens, Wave Hill (www.WaveHill.org).  I had a knot in my stomach from the moment I got on Interstate 6-84 until I reached the West 249th Street and Independence Avenue parking lot.  Once I entered the grounds, my troubles completely melted away.  Even though the sky was cloudy (perfect weather for photographing, however) and I was underdressed with a sleeveless shirt, the garden warmly embraced me as it always does and I walked around in a pleasant state of euphoria clicking away without a care in the world. The atmosphere surrounding me was sheer perfection, the best gift of a day off I could have asked for.

View of the Hudson River from lawn in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

View of the Hudson River from the lawn (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Wave Hill is a 28 acre public garden encompassing a series of gently rolling hills embellished with formal and informal gardens, specimen trees, natural wooded areas and meandering trails, all leading to breathtaking views of the Hudson River.  There are green houses packed to the rafters with prickly cactus, curious succulents, and hundreds of lush, vibrant plants bursting with blossoms.  Since the mission of Wave Hill is to “Celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts“, it makes sense that they offer a variety of classes year round in their cultural center as well.

View Across the Hudson in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

View Across the Hudson River (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

As you walk around the property the feeling of maturity and wisdom wafts over you, rightly so, as this property was first developed in the 1840’s, changing hands frequently over the years, until George W. Perkins purchased the estate in 1903. The property had since remained in the Perkins-Freeman family, until 1960 when the family deeded the estate to the City of New York.  Today, Wave Hill is one of 33 city owned cultural institutions, offering programs in horticulture, environmental, woodland management and visual-performing arts.

There’s so much to appreciate at Wave Hill, I hardly know where to start.  So, take my hand and I’ll give you a guided tour, beginning at the parking lot where the evergreens are pruned to create a wave effect.  You enter on a brick path which leads you directly to an open lawn with chairs aimed toward the stunning view of the Hudson.  In the foreground is a stone pergola wrapped in colorful vines, with an incredible variety of container plantings lining each side of the walkway. If you branch off to the right before reaching the

The Wave Hill Conservatory in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Wave Hill Conservatory (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

pergola, you will view the glass conservatory, which has a section to the left and right, each containing hundreds of rare and beautiful plants, many that I had never seen before.  The conservatory is bordered by lush gardens divided with narrow pathways, also filled with an assortment of perennials, shrubs and herbs that invite you stop and look continuously.  And, a seating area surrounded by roses offers an unobstructed view to the pergola and river beyond.

** Here are other GREAT DESTINATIONS in the area to visit ~

The Aquatic Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Aquatic Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

From the  conservatory, I roamed up past the herb and dry gardens to the alpine house, which was surrounded by sentries in stone containers.  There were dozens of unusual dwarf evergreens and herbs artfully placed on the different terraces, but the plants were all situated to draw your eye to the river view below, and despite their beauty, the plantings never detract from this mission.  From there, I chose a path that led me up to the aquatic garden area, which was flanked on either side by dark grey stone pergolas covered in moss and vines, and complemented by a grand display of tropicals at the entryway.  The pool itself had grasses, lilies and other water plants, all placed to allow wonderful views across and beyond.  If I were a frog, I would be floating around, luxuriating in the beauty of it all . . .

**Looking for another great garden along the Hudson? Check out Boscobel House & Gardens

View from Wild Garden Gazebo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

View from the Wild Garden Gazebo (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There are a lot of pathway options from the aquatic area, so I wandered through the wild garden, admiring berries and changing foliage as I climbed higher to a lookout gazebo where I was able to capture some fabulous viewpoints of the gardens and property below.  Native sumacs with clusters of bright red berries next to asters and grasses, all waving gently in the breeze as I took in the breathtaking scenery.  Leaving the wild gardens, you enter an area of dappled sun called the shade border.  The paths are lined with hosta, fern and other shade loving perennials, but random spots of glowing white nicotiana light the way until you come out onto a lawn leading you to the conifer slope.

Pine Cones glistening with rain drops in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Pine Cones glistening with rain drops (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

As you exit the shade border, you’ll notice a stately beech to your left.  Surely this is a guardian tree, one of the elders that helps keep order among the  Wave Hill underlings.  Just ahead the conifer slope awaits, with every delicacy and variety of texture and color an evergreen admirer (such as myself) could ever ask for. There were greens and blues, golds and bronzes, prickly and touchable, some adorned with pine cones as well.  It had rained the night before, so many of the needles were glistening with water droplets that sparkled in the morning sun.  Then, before you knew it, we’re back on the roadway heading toward the lawn and pergola where we first started.  I hope you enjoyed your walk through one of the most amazing gardens in New York, never realizing there was a bustling city right outside the gates.  Indeed, that’s the whole point of an escape~

*Note: If you go, remember to try the chocolate chip and/or oatmeal raisin cookies at the Wave Hill Cafe-they’re fabulous!


  1. Thanks for the vicarious tour of Wave Hill. Your words paint such a lovely picture.

    • Thank you, Jean. It’s such a lovely place, and worthy of a visit any time of the year (tho I think they’re only open on Saturday in the winter). I always appreciate your kind words~

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