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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Book Review: Garden Guide: New York City

Garden Guide: New York City, Revised Edition by Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry, with photographs by Joseph de Sciose
W. W. Norton, 2010
Paperback, 424 pages



Memorial Day Weekend in the United States is traditionally the unofficial start of summer, a three-day weekend when people hit the road to nearby places of interest. With rising gas prices and a growing environmental responsibility people may opt to stay near home on that and subsequent weekends, instead heading outside to parks and other green spaces in town. Living in New York City, there is no shortage of these types of spaces, even though many outsiders may only see the city as acres of concrete around Central Park. But as the city turns old industrial waterfronts to parks and entrepreneurs create gardens in the sky, the choices are much more varied and geographically dispersed. This guide to the city's gardens is a great little companion (only 5.8 x 4.4 x 1.2 inches) for the summer months in New York City, as people head for the green spaces that feel so much cooler than the gray spaces that make the city a "heat island."

The book is organized geographically: five chapters are devoted to Manhattan, with one each for the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Maps and photos begin each chapter, and the entries for the 80+ green spaces include location and public transit directions, opening hours and admission fees (if any), a web page, facility details, and recommendations for seasons. This last points to the fact that while summer may be the best time to get outdoors -- especially after the itch of a winter hibernation with closed or unusable parks and other spaces -- the urban landscapes in this guide offer a myriad of experiences throughout the year. Spring blossoms, fall foliage, and even winter snow cover provide their own appealing experiences. Each entry also includes a lengthy description, giving some background on the gardens but also details on the plantings and what one can expect to see. My only grievance is that the photos dispersed throughout the book are not keyed to the entries; some accompany the entries but most don't, making the connections less obvious than they could be. Regardless, this is a small quibble in a book taking its place alongside other guides to New York City in my library. It will also get a good workout this summer.

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