What's going on at the park...


Updated: Sep 3

Another beautiful summer is sadly coming to a close. And as the kids are preparing to go back to school, either physically or virtually, the Friends of Crawford Park are gearing up to plant more great flora in the park. Shrubs, trees and perennials are all on order and the soil is getting prepped for more plants in the parking lot beds and in our other gardens throughout the park.  

Gardens are our ever-evolving gifts to the community that provide joy throughout the year. The Friends are happy to continue planting these gifts and we are grateful for the ongoing community support we are given.  If you love what you see and want to further our efforts, click here to donate.

September’s Spotlight Tree: The Shagbark Hickory

Hickory nuts are now beginning to fall providing a feasting ground for all types of local animals like squirrels, fox, red bellied woodpeckers and wild turkey. In the spring moth and butterfly caterpillars will feast on the hickory’s leaves. The birds then feast off the caterpillars and the ever-expanding spiral of the food web spins away. 

You can find six Shagbark Hickories in the park. If you are impressed with my intimate knowledge of tree inventory, I must disclose my source. The Town of Rye commissioned Bartlett Tree to make an extensive inventory of trees in the park and the whole database is online right here.

This Shagbark Hickory is listed as tree #280 on the Arborscope database. Right now, if you sit under its mighty strong branches you might get conked in the head as it sheds its nuts for the season. And 2020 seems to be a bumper crop for nuts, in the horticultural world this is called “mast year” that happens every three to four years.  It is as if the trees are talking to each other saying I think it is time to try to make more little trees and they drop many more nuts during mast years than others - there is power in numbers and the probability of creating a seedling is much more likely.  But to grow a hickory from seed to its current size will take longer than our lifetimes. This tree takes so long to grow that it is called the “patience tree” - it takes up to 40 years to bear fruit and can live up to 300 years. It is also one of the strongest woods in the forest  - baseball bats and golf club shafts have been made with their wood and chipped up hickory wood makes wonderful smoked meats. 

Keep an eye on this tree throughout the year. Right now it is bearing nuts, soon its leaves will turn golden and start to fall, in the winter its bark will start to peel back like a bad hair day, hence the name Shagbark Hickory and then in the spring the caterpillars will inch their way back to their home and the cycle will continue.  

So the next time you pass a hickory in the park take a second to appreciate it for all that it does for our local ecosystem. But there is no hurry - she has been there for many years and (knock on wood) she will be there for many more to come. 

Bluebirds Fly High and Multiply

During a recent late afternoon visit to the park I ran into Sandy Morrissey, aka the Bluebird Lady.  I re-introduced myself and we chatted about the birds and the bees...well, mainly the birds. She was happy to report that the bluebird population at Crawford Park is doing remarkably well this year. 

Each year the Eastern Birdbird population fluctuates and a few years ago the docile bluebird was at risk of extinction due to the fact that they were running out of natural habitat. But thanks to people like Sandy, who have erected these nesting bird houses you see affixed to posts in the middle of the fields at Crawford Park, the Bluebirds now have a place to call home. And according to Sandy this year has been a great one for the Bluebird. 

She has seen four nesting Bluebird pairs this season at Crawford Park alone compared to just one last year.  If you look for them, our resident bluebirds are still living in the park. I usually see them perched on a small weeping cherry tree in front of the mansion. 

Community Garden Coming Soon???

At our last Friends of Crawford Park meeting, we decided to explore creating a community food garden that would supply fresh produce to those who are food insecure. According to Amy Benerofe, of Our New Way Gardens, ¼ of Westchester residents are food insecure, meaning they don’t know how they are going to feed themselves. And that statistic was before Covid-19. 

We are currently in the exploratory stages and are looking for feedback from the community. If you are interested in supporting a “giving garden” please fill out this quick survey. We are looking for synagogues, schools, churches or other organizations or just one or two awesome farmers to run the garden. The Friends can build the structure, but we want to make sure it is 1- necessary, 2- maintained, 3- supported by the community at large.

Updated: Aug 5

Summer is here in full tilt and the park is blooming with color and booming with people. Now more than ever, Crawford Park is a sanctuary and a safe place for friends and family to meet outside. Hopefully everyone is using safe social distancing while they are enjoying the landscape: the real fruits of the Friends of Crawford Park’s labor.

What’s growing great this time of year at the park?

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Ornamental Grasses -

I love this very columnal grass because it grows so straight and proud and provides year-long architectural interest. And unlike other ornamental grasses, Karl Foerster's seeds are sterile so they are not invasive - it can grow 60” tall and spreads about 24” wide. Here it is in the center of the parking lot planting area.

Crepe Myrtles -

Crepe Myrtles are commanding some attention this month. I grew up in South Georgia and these ornamental trees were all over the place. I love their smooth bark and wide variety of colors. Edna Crawford, the original owner of this land, loved them too. You can see two original ones flanking each side of her solarium doors on the left side of the mansion. There are also newer trees planted near the pavilion and sunken garden.

Although these trees are not native, they do attract and feed a lot of birds. Right now, their blooms are feeding the hummingbirds and be sure to check out the action in December - February when the tree’s blooms turns to seed and satisfy a slew of birds.

Purple Coneflowers -

The Friends planted the purple pow-wow wildberry coneflowers in the parking lot last fall and it is loving it. This first rule of gardening is to select the right space for the right plant and while the coneflower can tolerate part shade it is flourishing in this sunny location. We planted them with black eye susan and some shasta daisies to flood the areas with color from late spring to late summer. They will drop their seeds and multiple. We are going to take some seeds to see if we can’t propagate more for next year but leave most of the flowers intact so the birds will chow down. We should have some pretty fat birds at the park!

Planning for Fall

And while we are all enjoying the colors of the summer, the Friends are also working on what can be done this fall. We have plans to expand the parking lot plantings this fall as well as bring back some turn of the century charm to Edna Crawford’s Sunken Garden, with more phlox, bearded irises, lady’s mantle and delphinium. We have always wanted to add a birdbath fountain in the middle of the sunken garden and thanks to a generous donation and advances in solar powered water pumps, that is in the works!

Edna Crawford's Sunken Garden while she was residing here. Date of the photo unknown.

We are also wanting to plant more trees along the perimeter of the park, especially behind the new parking lot area and in the space where all these invasive vines were cleared but now people’s backyards are more visible to park goers. For their privacy and the park’s seclusion, more trees are going to be added.

Donations are needed

All these plans take money to implement. Donations are always needed to keep us growing. We can’t host any of our amazing Music at the Mansion shows right now, so we have posted text to donate signs throughout the park. But you don’t have to text us- you can just click here to donate now.

No gym, no problem

The Town of Rye is working hard not only to maintain and improve the park, they are also helping facilitate a bunch of outside exercise classes. For more information go to Crawford Park's Facebook page for all event info:

Yoga, Zumba, Strength Training and Art Classes are all being hosted inside the pavilion.

Please note that the Town of Rye is responsible for park rentals, these are not sponsored or fundraising events for or by the Friends. We are a non-profit gardening group that beautifies the park.

There is a saying that a garden takes three years to grow. The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps. The Robert Morabito Memorial Garden is only a year and a half old and we are happy to report that it has taken root and is being well maintained.

The Robert Morabito Garden honors a man who spent 14 years as Supervisor to the Town of Rye and was a huge champion of Crawford Park. Before his untimely death in January 2018 Bob gave his annual donation to the Friends of Crawford Park, with a note saying “Keep up the good work. Park looks great.”

Laura Klein, president of the Friends of Crawford Park, contacted three of Robert Morabito’s dearest friends, Chris Cohan, Mike Borrelli and Raymond Sculky and they collected over $5000 from Bobby’s friends and family. The community support was wonderful and in the fall of 2018 the garden was planted.

Designed by landscape architect Chris Cohan, the garden has become a sanctuary for many park goers. Just last week, I watched a little girl pose in front of the beautiful Annabelle hydrangeas - her tiny beauty was flanked with white pom-poms and dark green leaves. Earlier this year, the serviceberry trees came to life as one of the early bloomers of spring while daffodils and bluebells provided a colorful tapestry below. The teak bench, at the center of the garden, provides a focal point and place of respite.

Friends of Crawford Park remain committed to the entire park and this new memorial garden’s ongoing maintenance and success. We recently added more Japanese forest grasses and foam flowers to the center of the garden as well as annuals for color.

We sincerely thank all who gave and helped bring this garden to life! We hope you will visit the garden this summer, sit amongst the plants remembering Bobby and how he loved Crawford Park.


The Friends of Crawford Park is an all-volunteer, 501(C)(3) organization whose purpose is to continually enhance and maintain this jewel of the community.

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Photo Credit: Diana Lee Angstadt


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     Rye Brook, NY 10573 USA