Our first thought for this column was to find open gardens on Long Island that would make a good day’s outing for people who have been in lockdown and are longing for a change of scenery. You know — pack a picnic, take a drive, take a stroll, and enjoy nature. The thing we didn’t think of was how to answer the “call of nature” on such a trip. Fair warning — these are places that have opened their gardens but not their buildings.
Perhaps the best bet until things open back up is to plan trips close to home. Here are some gardens currently open on Long Island. Hopefully, some are near you. (For any of these gardens, it’s a good idea to take water, face masks, hand sanitizer, and don’t forget a camera.)
Bailey Arboretum, Bayville and Feeks Lane, Lattingtown — This 42-acre stretch of woods, ponds, and garden offers beautiful trails where you can learn about the history of Long Island and ecology. It is open Wednesday to Friday from 8 AM to 6 PM and closed Saturday through Tuesday. Admission and parking are free, and guests are welcome to picnic and walk their dogs. Having masks on hand in case you encounter others is recommended, but a spokesperson said there is plenty of room for social distancing on most of the trails.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, 1365 Planting Field Road, Oyster Bay — The former estate of William Robertson Coe and Mai Rogers Coe, this 409-acre estate features an historic building with huge lawns, resplendent gardens designed by the Olmsted brothers, hiking trails, and many plant specimens. Due to the need for social distancing, the parking lot is restricted to 50 percent capacity and the usual $8 fee is waived. If necessary, the arboretum may close periodically to visitors, so be sure to check before going.
Clark Botanic Garden, 193 I.U. Willets Road, Albertson — This botanical garden is a living museum, and, in normal times, an educational facility. It has collections of wildflowers, roses, daylilies, wetland plants, rock garden plants, herbs, and medicinal plants, among its dozens of collections of particular plant families. The garden is open from 10 AM to 3:30 PM., and the gates are locked at 4 PM. Visitors are welcome to walk the paths with face masks and are asked to follow social distancing rules. No groups or gatherings will be allowed at this time.
Bayard Cutting Arboretum, 440 Montauk Highway, Great River — This part of the Long Island State Park system was originally a large wooded area with large oaks. Now it contains evergreens, rhododendron, azaleas, and hollies plus many wildflowers and daffodils. The arboretum has many trails to walk. The grounds are open from 10 AM to 6 PM and rules have been posted for visitor safety. The fee is $8 for parking, but that is waived for seniors during the week.
Bridge Gardens, 36 Mitchell Lane, Bridgehampton — This garden, affiliated with the Peconic Land Trust, is a five-acre gem in the heart of Bridgehampton. This unique public and demonstration garden offers many different areas to enjoy. Enjoy mysterious hedgerows, a wide variety of perennial and annual flowers and shrubs, and a four-quadrant herb garden with culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and textile/dye plants. There is no fee to visit, and visitors are asked to bring masks and practice social distancing. The facility also serves as a pickup location for members of the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm’s Summer Box Shares.
Sadly, two favorites on the East End have yet to open up — LongHouse Reserve and Madoo Conservancy. Both of these gardens are fascinating reflections of the artists that created them — Jack Lenor Larsen (LongHouse) and Robert Dash (Madoo). To accompany their gardens, both spots also display and celebrate a diversity of art forms. We’ll be watching for these two unique gardens to open back up for public enjoyment and recommend, if you love visiting gardens, that you do likewise.
If none of these options seem workable right now, a New York garden that might not immediately come to mind, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has virtual tours that could set any gardener’s heart and mind racing. Just popping through Plants in Bloom, under Gardens & Collections, could make one giddy. A visit to its website’s Garden Resources could be the place to learn how to get some of those same spectacular blooms into your own garden. And the world-renown New York Botanical Garden, although also currently closed, virtually opens up for lessons, virtual walks, plant talks, and so much more on its website. These are but two of the gardens worldwide offering a virtual peek at the delights you might find on a typical visit.