A private garden in New York City would cost a lot if it weren't free. Happily, it is free. And you don't have to spray for beetles. You might have to let in some company, but your garden will inspire you to share. Saint Luke was a physician, and The Gardens at Saint Luke in the Fields are just what the doctor would have ordered.
They're at the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields, which is bordered by Hudson, Barrow, Greenwich, and Christopher streets in the middle of the West Village. There are six gardens, but the one for which you'll be happiest not to pay is the one called the Barrow Street Garden, even though you enter it on Hudson.
Appropriately, it's paradise, a sanctuary full of flowers and birds and butterflies, and benches for every occasion. It's tucked behind brick walls, which separate your street life from your garden life. And company tends to be well-behaved. People come here to be quiet. They can go just about everywhere else to not.
The garden is in quadrants, but you can easily ignore that and just wander the paths looking for the latest blooms. Then you can sit on a bench that's alone or on a bench that's with other benches, depending on whether you want to escape other people or want to watch other people escape you.
The church was built in 1821, and a garden was started in 1842, but the Barrow Street Garden wasn't started until 1956. Its creator was Barbara Ellen Leighton, who worked for the Port Authority and thus must have needed a sanctuary as much as anyone.
Barbara first dug into Saint Luke's in 1954, when she revived the Rectory Garden, which was the original. Her new garden was called the Corner Garden. It's not clear why its name was changed. The Rectory Garden is now known for its roses, but its name was not changed to the Rose Garden.
The North Garden has silver maples; the South Lawn has grass; the Allée has a cherry grove; the Contemplation Corner has thoughts. But of all of them, the Barrow Street Garden is the priceless getaway, especially when you don't have the price of a getaway.
There are just a few rules of garden conduct. Luke would have wanted it that way.
And there's a memorial bench that says "Exit Laughing." You may be exiting that way.Disappear at The Gardens at Saint Luke in the Fields, 487 Hudson Street, in New York City.