The Conservatory Garden is the only formal garden in Central Park, New York City. Comprising 6 acres (24,000 sq m), it takes its name from a conservatory that stood on the site from 1898 to 1934. The park's head gardener used the glasshouses to harden hardwood cuttings for the park's plantings. After the conservatory was torn down, the garden was designed by Gilmore D. Clarke, landscape architect for Robert Moses, with planting plans by M. Betty Sprout; constructed and planted by WPA workers, it was opened to the public in 1937.
The Garden is composed of three distinct parts, skillfully restored since the 1980s, and is accessible through the Vanderbilt Gate at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street, a quarter mile (400 m) south of the park's northeast corner. The Vanderbilt Gate (illustrated right) once gave access to the forecourt of Cornelius Vanderbilt II's chateau designed by George Browne Post, the grandest of the Fifth Avenue mansions of the Gilded Age, at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue, sharing the Plaza with the Plaza Hotel. The wrought iron Gates with cast iron and repoussé details, were designed by Post and executed in an iron foundry in Paris.
Below the steps flanked by Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), the central section of the Conservatory Garden is a symmetrical lawn outlined in clipped yew, with a single central fountain jet at the rear. It is flanked by twin allées of crabapples and backed by a curved wisteria pergola against the steep natural slope, that is dominated at its skyline by a giant American Sycamore. Otherwise there is no flower color: instead, on any fine Saturday afternoon in June, it is the scene of photography sessions for colorful wedding parties, for which limousines pull up in rows on Fifth Avenue.
After the Second World War the garden had become neglected, and by the 1970s a wasteland. It was restored and partially replanted under the direction of horticulturist and urban landscape designer Lynden Miller, to reopen in June 1987. The overgrown, top-heavy crabapples were freed of watershoots and pruned up to a higher scaffold for better form. The high-style mixed planting was the first to bring estate garden style to urban parks, part of the general renewal of Central Park under Elizabeth Barlow Rogers of the Central Park Conservancy.