It’s official, Piet Oudolf can do no wrong in my book. I’ve raved about his plantsmanship before at the Highline; now I’m about to do the same about Battery Park. I’ve been to Battery Park once before, at sunset, and all I really managed to see was the sun setting behind the Statue of Liberty and the resident wild turkey who shot by too quickly for me to photograph.
After a few days making merry for the holidays, and a little bit of romance in Grand Central, I though Battery Park would be a nice respite, so I took the subway down to the south tip of Manhattan for what I anticipated would be an hour long ramble. I was very much mistaken. You see, I had forgotten that this park is the work of Piet Oudolf, which means that even in winter, when most of the trees are bare and the plants are spent, there is still the most dazzling array of stems and branches tumbling over one other in reckless abandon, grasses dancing in the breeze and catching the light, and dried seed heads creating architectural structures so surreal they could give Dali a run for his money. I spent over four hours photographing the result of his genius. I couldn’t stop; everywhere I turned there was another beautiful image waiting to be captured.
First of all, there is the wonderful way the park fits its surroundings. This is as urban a park as you can get, surrounded by skyscrapers that could easily overshadow a park in less masterful hands. Here, however, the backdrop is embraced and the plants and trees seem to play off the buildings, creating an altogether cohesive vision.
But it is when you turn your gaze inward to the exquisite planting in this park that Oudolf’s genius shines brightest. Those wonderful grasses – huge drifts of Korean feather reeds catching the sunlight so brilliantly they almost seem to be on fire; purple love grass trembling and shimmering in clouds of the most delicate pinkish-purple; ephemeral veils of Prairie dropseed – provide the most thrilling contrast in texture to the dried out seed heads and pods beginning to take centre stage in the winter chill.
I got lost in this incredible little park, as you can probably guess by the sheer volume of photos- and these are only the ones I couldn’t bear not to post. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, I urge you to go down there and spend an hour or two taking in the sheer beauty of the plantsmanship.
Thank you, Piet Oudolf, thank you from the bottom of my heart for yet another spectacular place on this earth.