Creation of the High Line in New York
The seminal idea of creating a garden and walking
trail along the High Line began in 1999. In the ensuing years
political, zoning, financial, design and construction challenges
were met. The first section of the High Line debuted in June
2009. In July of 2012 the City of New York acquired the title
to the final section of the High Line. This section is known as
the West Side Rail Yards and it is blessed with sweeping views
of the Hudson River and the Midtown skyline. The acquisition of
this portion of the rail line will extend the park to 34th
Photo: Carol Papas
James Corner Field Operations, a landscape architecture firm
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm, designed the
High Line. From a gardener’s viewpoint, the planting plan
executed by Piet Odulf is the most exciting aspect of the High
Line. Odulf is a Dutch garden designer who has designed gardens
and public parks around the world. He makes great use of
wild-looking plants, looking to their shapes and structure,
whether their flowers are spiky spires or simple daisies.
Masterful use of plants
paramount in Odulf’s designs, a takeaway all gardeners can use.
The use of grasses is masterful; their texture and movement
contrast beautifully with chunky shrubs and the strong, simple
architecture of the surrounding hardscape. The palette evokes
the wild plants that colonized the abandoned rail line prior to
its becoming a park. By choosing plants with interesting seed
heads or shrubs with strong silhouettes in the winter, he has
created a garden that looks terrific in all seasons. The
website thehighline.org provides a comprehensive list of plants
used. The choices are diverse and would make a great menu of
choices for a mixed border installation featuring trees, shrubs,
perennials (including groundcovers) and bulbs.
Photo: Carol Papas
One of the best reasons to visit gardens, whether
on local garden tours or as destinations to visit while on
vacation, is to see how plants can be put together in a pleasing
way. Books and magazines cannot provide the same experience as
being in a garden. Novice and expert gardeners will be inspired
by the plantings on High Line.
Hardy Plant Selections
Plants selected for inclusion on the trail are
relatively drought resistant and tough. Despite the large crowd
of tourists strolling on the paths I managed to snap scads of
lovely plant vignettes. While most of the people walking the
High Line were engaged in lively multi-lingual conversation,
often dressed to be part of the experience that is New York, I
was the gardener wearing sensible shoes, craning to get the best
shot of plants that caught my eye.
Pirating a great idea from a garden visit is not
only encouraged, but a really smart way to hone your gardening
skills. As they say, “imitation is the most sincere form of
Repeat visits to the NY High Line
I have visited the High Line in fall of 2010 and
this summer. Within that short time crowds have gotten
larger and changes to the surrounding neighborhoods have
accompanied the popularity of the gardens. Real estate
prices have skyrocketed, and pricier vendors have crowded out
some established local businesses, so there has been a downside
to the project. Weekend afternoons can be mighty crowded. If
possible, plan your visit for early morning or on a weekday.
Photo: Carol Papas
That being said, in a city full of tourists and
pricey destinations, the High Line is distinctly different, free
(although a donation to the Friends of the High Line is
suggested) and fun for all ages. Pairing a stroll along the
High Line before or after a great meal is a treat. Restaurant
choices within walking distance of the High Line abound. If
money is no object you can even stay at The Standard Hotel- High
Line and wake up to views of the gardens and the Hudson River.
Gardeners know that growing and enjoying plants
add to their quality of life. Based on my visits to public
gardens almost everywhere I travel, even non-gardeners respond
to verdant, beautiful escapes from tourist destinations. If
you’re contemplating a trip to New York City, be sure to include
the High Line in your plans. Your wallet will thank you.
The High Line is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
daily. Park information can also be obtained by calling the
High Line information line: 212-500-6065.
New York City
Brooklyn Botanic Garden