Late Winter at The Battery 2018

This winter, I began working as a garden intern at The Battery Conservancy. The park we now know as The Battery did not originally exist as a park; in fact, the green space between Bowling Green, State Street and Clinton Castle used to be water; now it is landfill.

The original Battery held Fort Amsterdam, a Dutch fort built in the seventeenth century to fend off the English. About one hundred and fifty years later, the American Revolutionists used the same fort (then called Fort George) at the Battery to fend off the English as well. In anticipation of the War of 1815, the Americans built an island fortress called West Battery off the shore of Manhattan. This fortress, later called Castle Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton (no relation to the President), who was governor of New York and mayor of New York City. The castle was never used in the war.

During the rest of the nineteenth century, Castle Clinton was used as a military base, an aquarium, a circus, an immigration processing center (In 1890, the US Government assumed control of immigration and moved the processing center to Ellis Island), and finally, as a historic monument and place to buy your tickets to the Statue of Liberty. The water between Castle Clinton and Bowling Green was filled in the mid-nineteenth century. 

The Battery

Castle Clinton was almost destroyed by Robert Moses, who first proposed to build a bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn (he was forced to build the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel instead), and then proposed just to get rid of the ugly building. Luckily for the Castle, World War II postponed its demolition, and the building was later made a historic monument.

In 1994, Warrie Price founded The Battery Conservancy to restore and rejuvenate the neglected park surrounding the Castle Clinton. In the ensuing years, The Battery Conservancy has created a magical spot at the tip of Manhattan, visited by 7 million people per year (think of everyone visiting the Statue of Liberty, the Staten Island Ferry, the Wall Street Bull, Wall Street, and the World Trade Center Memorial - many if not most of these visitors pass through the 21 acre park!). A large portion of The Battery was designed by renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf. He is known in New York for designing The High Line, which is a park built on an abandoned elevated railway. Oudolf is famous for his naturalistic perennial beds, which create interest throughout the year, not just in the growing season. 

In my brief season of working at The Battery, I will take pictures of plants I know, plants I don't know, and plants I wish to know. Documenting and labeling these plants on this blog allows me to learn their names and share my experience with everyone who cannot travel to Manhattan and experience the small surprises of seasonal changes in a perennial garden.

The following pictures are from late winter (March 1-March 21, 2018). Snow is still on the ground, late winter bulbs and flowering shrubs make their debut. Hungry for color and life after months of bleakness, our eyes are drawn to the tiny flowers of the Crocus, Iris and Hyemalis, poking their heads up above the snow. "We are back," they seem to say. "All is well."

Crocus tommasinianus 'Barr's Purple'

Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis

Iris reticulata

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold's Promise'

Hamamelis intermedia 'Arnold's Promise'

Hamamelis intermedia 'Arnold's Promise'

Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst'

Scilla mischtschenkoana
Scilla mischtschenkoana
The Bosque

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty'

Hyemalis eranthus

Emerging foliage

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

Early morning, after a snowstorm

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