A Ramble through Central Park's wild side

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What’s a person to do? Spring abounds. Even in the City, it won’t be ignored. Tulips and daffodils burst from tree wells and tumble from rowed water buckets at the corner deli. Fragrant hyacinths spread their heavy scent from the sidewalks or stooped potted perches with a close net thrown wide. From the Conservatory Garden to Park Avenue and out to the celebrated allées of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, cherry trees engage in their annual festival of blossoms accompanied, of course, by an annual chorus of appreciative oohs and aahs. Tropical orchids, not to be outdone by any mere mortal competition, come on to you from fashionable vertical walls at the New York Botanical Garden. Even left-over fall cabbages, determined not to be ignored, get in on the act with their own spring hurrah of unexpectedly attractive, bright yellow florets bursting from the tops of bolted stalks like mini fireworks. But… What’s a person to do when the seasonal riot has gotten a tad too hectic? And someone develops a quite sudden itch for a more sedate and primal vision of spring? Why go to Central Park, of course!

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Leave your expectations behind. Central Park, you see, holds a secret rather close to the real soul of spring called the Ramble. Visitors, both local and those armed with guide books, rarely venture this far, drawn instead to spots more usual or obvious. Bird watchers do frequent it, and might clue you in if they’d only put down their spy glasses long enough to focus their eyes on the background instead of the feathers. It’s really a spot, though, that ardent plant watchers usually discover for themselves. Especially in the spring. By artful design, its thirty-or-so acres were meant as a wild contrast to the formal paths and promenades that define most of the rest of the Park. Instead of that formality, it’s a naturalistic forested backdrop of subtle simplicity, with seemingly spontaneous paths that meander through trees and across glacier-scarred granite outcroppings, a backdrop that rises from the Lake on its southern side to a turreted folly called Belvedere Castle on the other. This time of year sunlight dapples through the emerging leaves above and falls on the forest floor to illuminate a range of wild flowers and native plantings. You’ll find trilliums and geraniums, foam flowers and ferns, merrybells and shooting stars all emerging through the leaf litter. Viburnum and dogwood blossoms light up the shrubs here with simple white. The occasional azalea punctuates rather than over whelms. Wander slowly, stop often, look closely. And enjoy the wild Ramble’s wild side of spring.

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