High on the High Line

I love, love, love the High Line park. I love the concept, love the vision, love the experience. It used to be an elevated train line for freight that ran along the west side of Manhattan from Spring St. up to 34th, but it was closed in the eighties and lay abandoned for years. In 2006 a project got underway to turn it into a city park. The 1st stage, running from Gansevoort St. to 20th was opened to the public in 2009; the 2nd stage was opened this year, continuing up to 30th.

Betula populifolia birch with railway track in background

I had visited the park during the 1st stage, but today I walked the length of the High Line all the way from Gansevoort St. to 30th. It was sublime. The first part of the park has matured into something extraordinary; the second part is just lovely – I can’t wait to see how it evolves. The planting design is by Dutch garden designer extraordinaire Piet Oudolf and is an exquisite combination of colour, texture, structure and movement.

I took many, many photographs, so deciding which ones to share has proven an arduous task. However, one thing I knew I couldn’t convey through language or still images was the movement of this incredible planting design. The High Line is elevated above street level, making it windswept at the best of times. Oudolf’s planting has fully embraced this, creating a landscape that ebbs and flows and scatters light in all directions. Most of my day was spent gazing in wonder at this creation, but I did rouse myself out of my reverie to capture a few seconds of footage of this shifting, drifting, ever-changing landscape.

Equisetum hyemale

The end result of Oudolf’s masterful planting is a sensual delight. Rich colours, fragrant blooms, grasses you can run your fingers through and the rustling of trees and grasses as the wind caresses them and you.

Leafy tunnels, undulating walkways, a fountain that’s less a fountain and more an unboundaried shimmer of water at ground level that positively begs you to take off your shoes and wander barefoot through it; they all add up to a sense of play guaranteed to enthrall your inner child.

Here are some of the plants that really stole the show as I strolled along the High Line today.

The fragrant Clerodendrum trichotomum (harlequin glorybower) in bloom
Striking berries on Clerodendrum trichotomum
Clerodendrum trichotomum berry & sepals catching the sun
Echinacea purpurea 'Vintage Wine'
Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’, Sinonome toadlily
Coreopsis ‘Full Moon’ and Rudbeckia missouriensis clambering up the fence
Even plants that have gone to seed retain their loveliness in this enchanting park
Vernonia glauca (broadleaf ironweed) resplendent in its tactile yellow fluffiness
Rosehips form graceful arches over railway tracks
Coreopsis 'Full Moon' peeps out between soft drifts of Calamagrostis brachytricha, Korean feather grass
Such a lovely sight, I had to get closer
Anemone cylindrica (thimbleweed) in its autumn fleece
Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ coral honeysuckle rambling up the fence

If you’re visiting New York, you should put this park at the top of your to do list. If you live here, you should visit as often as you can. Thank you, Piet Oudolf, for this magical place.


8 thoughts on “High on the High Line”

    1. Thanks tootlepedal. If you do manage to make it across the ocean, it’s a fantastic place to visit. If I were in the UK, though, I’d already be making plans to visit Anglesey Abbey’s Winter Garden – have you ever been?

  1. Looks like a wonderful place. Great pics!

    I visit White Plains pretty often. Next time I’m in the city, I’ll look up this park. I’m always on the hunt for new locations for photo walks!

  2. I saw a documentary about the High Line on television. I haven’t lived in New York since the 1970s, at which time we could still drive on the elevated part of the West Side Highway. When I lived in New York I wasn’t interested in plants, so I’m pleased to see that Lonicera sempervirens is native there; I had fun photographing its flowers early this spring in Austin. Thanks for bringing it to people’s attention.

    Steve Schwartzman

    1. Next time you visit, Steve, you’ll be amazed at what they’ve done with the High Line. Bring your camera! Stunning photography on your site, by the way.

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