Popular media has always associated the Bronx in New York City with images of crime, burning and poverty. But while the Bronx did experience some forms of crises in its history to merit such a reputation, it is not all like that. Northwest of the borough, amidst an idyllic neighborhood, sits Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center.
Once a private estate, Wave Hill House and the surrounding gardens have passed through a number of owners and have seen many famous tenants take residence within its walls before it was donated to the City of New York in 1960. Wave Hill was built in 1843 by lawyer and jurist William Lewis Morris. In 1866, Wave Hill was bought by publisher William Henry Appleton, whose family later sold it to the financier George W. Perkins, owner of the adjacent Glyndor House. It was the heirs of the Perkins family who later on gave the property to the public.
Famous tenants of Wave Hill House before it became public include Mark Twain, United States President Theodore Roosevelt, during his teens; Dr. Bashford Dean, the first curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and acclaimed conductor Arturo Toscanini.
What makes Wave Hill Garden so famous is the breathtaking view it offers of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. Enjoying this view surrounded by magnificent species of flora both native and imported, planted in 28 acres of open space, is a truly spellbinding experience.
Wave Hill Garden has many notable attractions, among which are:
1. The Flower Garden. A spot of rusticity in Wave Hill, adorned with both vintage and modern perennials, annuals and exotics, surrounded by cedar fences and benches, and with pathways paved with brick.
2. The Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory. Named after Wave Hill’s founding Director of Horticulture and composed of three glass houses: The Palm House, home to South African plants; Cacti and Succulent House, where plants from the arid regions reside; and Tropical House, shelter to plants from the humid regions.
3. The Wild Garden. As the name states, inspired by the English wild garden as envisioned by 18th century garden designer William Robinson. Annuals and perennials cultivated with abandon grow along meandering paths.
4. The Aquatic Garden. Where one can find tropical and hardy plants such as lotuses and water lilies floating on their landscaped ponds. <p.5. The T. H. Everett Alpine House. A spot where one can find small, rock garden plants that usually grow on high altitudes, arranged around a rustic retaining stone wall.</p.
6. The Woodland. A ten-acre fringe of woods surrounding Wave Hill, featuring black gums, yellowwoods, shadbushes and wildflowers.
7. The Dry and Herb Garden. A sample spread of various herbs used as ornaments, as medicine, and as ingredients to food. Examples found here are mints, bay laurels, sages, rosemary and lavenders.
Wave Hill holds seasonal exhibits, as well as regular lectures and family-oriented activities. Sessions of tai chi are held there every Saturday, while garden and conservation tours happen every Sunday.