Central Park’s only formal garden was constructed in 1937 based on a design by Gilmore Clarke with the planting designed by M. Betty Sprout and site design by Thomas Price (who worked for Clarke at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation after time at the American Academy in Rome). The garden takes its name from a large greenhouse which existed on the site between 1898 and 1934 and featured tropical plants. Prior to the creation of the greenhouse, the site housed a small nursery for growing plants for the park.
The garden is divided into three distinct sections. In the center is an Italianate garden featuring a large central parterre and fountain framed by a wisteria-covered pergola and flanked by two crab apple allées. The north garden is in the French style, defined by small parterres with knotted designs surrounding the fountain Three Dancing Maidens by Walter Schott. Large planting beds at the edges of the garden feature seasonal displays of tulips in the spring and chrysanthemums in the fall. The south garden is inspired by English perennial gardens and includes large planting beds with an array of small trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials, mixed with annual plantings. In the center is a small water lily pond featuring the Burnett Fountain by Bessie Potter Vonnoh, celebrating the author Frances Hodgson Burnett and her story The Secret Garden. The garden was restored in the mid-1980s under the direction of the landscape designer Lynden Miller. The Conservatory Garden along with all of Central Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.