With a population of 7.5 million squeezed into an area of 1,400 square miles, it might surprise you that any nature on Long Island has been preserved, but indeed it has. Quite a bit of it, in fact. In addition to dozens of wildlife refuges, hiking trails and nature centers, Long Island has many inviting parks and gardens, now in full bloom.
Here are some green and colorful spaces you can visit this spring:
Old Westbury Gardens
The former estate of the Phipps family is now a nonprofit that welcomes visitors of all ages to tour the historic Westbury house and its formal gardens, to participate in its educational programs and to enjoy its museum exhibits and outdoor concerts. The 200-acre property features several manicured gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes.
In April and May, azaleas, bluebells, daffodils, dogwoods, English daisies, forget-me-nots, lilacs, mountain laurel, pansies, primroses, tulips, wildflowers and wisteria are expected to bloom.
Old Westbury Gardens is open every day except Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit www.oldwestburygardens.org for the events calendar and more.
Nassau County Museum of Art
In addition to its fine art exhibitions and those on permanent display, this acclaimed museum in Roslyn Harbor also includes a sculpture park, formal garden of historic importance, an arboretum of pine trees, rare specimen trees and marked walking trails. The garden was designed in the 1920s by Marian Cruger Coffin to reflect the great country estates of the era. Today, the carefully reconstructed brick paths, perennial borders and intricate boxwood designs provide peace and sanctuary to all who visit.
The museum and grounds are open every day except Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Visit www.nassaumuseum.org for more information.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
Much like others included on this list, Planting Fields was once a Gilded Age estate that now, in the hands of a foundation, endeavors to educate, enrich and entertain the visiting public. At 400-acres, the Upper Brookville property contains the historic Coe Hall, as well as several greenhouses, woodland paths, an herbarium of more than 10,000 specimens and an extensive variety of gardens. Expect flowering trees and bushes to be in bloom in April and May, as well as daffodils and other spring bulbs.
The grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plan your visit at plantingfields.org.
Clark Botanic Garden
Operated by nonprofit The Fanny Dwight Clark Memorial Garden Inc., Clark Botanic Garden is a 12-acre living museum and educational facility located in the small hamlet of Albertson. At the garden you’ll find native spring wildflowers, conifers, roses, perennials, daylilies, wetland plants, rock garden plants, herbs, butterfly plants, medicinal plants and dozens of unique collections.
Visit www.clarkbotanic.org for a list of special events and more. The garden is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
This beautiful 42-acre arboretum is home to the world’s largest dawn redwood (Metasequoia), a variety of tree thought to have been extinct for millions of years until 1941. Renowned horticulturist and philanthropist Frank Bailey planted the seedlings at his Lattingtown estate in 1947 where they have grown into spectacular specimens with ropelike trunks and branches.
Bailey Arboretum is a lovely place for a picnic or a stroll through the landscaped gardens. It also boasts many activities for children and educational opportunities for adults. Admission is free. Visit daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more at www.baileyarboretum.org.
John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden
Last year, the North Shore Land Alliance purchased the Humes Garden from the Humes Japanese Stroll Garden Foundation. The 28-acre parcel in Locust Valley has been restored and is now open to those seeking a meditative experience. Full of North American and Asian plants, the defining feature of the garden is the stepping stone path which guides visitors through the Japanese landscape and ends at the pondside teahouse.
The stroll garden will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays beginning Saturday, May 12. Visit www.northshorelandalliance.org for more details about the Humes Garden as well as the organization’s many other conservation projects.
This gem in Bridgehampton features a wide variety of perennial and annual flowers and shrubs. Its mission of conservation means that the vegetable garden and use of sustainable practices benefit the community. A four-quadrant herb garden divides herbs into culinary, medicinal, ornamental and textile dye purposes.
Operated by Peconic Land Trust, Bridge Gardens hosts educational and recreational programming all year. It is open to the public seven days a week. Find more information at peconiclandtrust.org.
Farmingdale State College Horticulture Teaching Gardens
At a college known for its horticulture program resides four acres of a series of theme gardens which have been evolving since the 1930s. As part of their course requirements, students have laid out the beds and borders, prepared the soil and maintained the plants in the gardens. Enjoy annuals, perennials, grasses, roses, beech hedges, herbs, dwarf conifers, weeping Higan cherry trees and more.
The teaching gardens are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more at www.farmingdale.edu.
New York Botanical Garden
Though not on Long Island, the New York Botanical Garden is nearby in the Bronx and absolutely worth the trip. This spring, get lost among the azaleas, cherry trees, lilacs, magnolias and water lilies. Don’t miss complex living sculptures on display at the 16th annual Orchid Show, which runs through April 22.
Plan your visit at www.nybg.org. The garden is open year-round, Tuesday through Sunday, and select holiday Mondays, typically from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Queens Botanical Garden
In the heart of our neighbor to the west is the Queens Botanical Garden, an urban oasis originally built for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair. There are many distinct gardens to explore, including the bee garden, which houses Italian honeybees and is used for teaching, the circle garden, made up of tall sun-loving perennials, the green room, an 8,000-square-foot habitat for birds, insects and native woodland plants, and the colorful perennial garden.
The garden is open every day except Mondays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit queensbotanical.org for more information.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Though in a borough of New York City and only geographically part of Long Island, this stunning 52-acre garden is a must-see, especially in springtime. In April, visitors are treated to blooming Japanese apricot, wild columbine, tree peony, Weigela, wild hyacinth, Kanzan cherry, tulips, eastern redbud and many more works of art by Mother Nature. Located in the Prospect Park neighborhood, Brooklyn Botanic Garden represents the very best in urban gardening.
Visit www.bbg.org for hours and admission rates.
Many of these gardens rely on support from the community to thrive. Consider donating or volunteering to help ensure these treasures remain open.