Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Walking the Highline

Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's root) with city buildings in the background
Walking the High Line
Last Sunday, Natureworks sponsored a bus trip to the High Line in New York City. Myself, my husband, many Natureworks employees, and lots of very enthusiastic customers braved the hottest day of the year to venture into the city and check out this very unusual garden. We were given a tour and I learned so much about how this garden came into existence.
The High Line was originally a raised railroad track that brought trains into the meatpacking district. As tractor trailer trucks eventually replaced railroad transportation, it was abandoned and became a dangerous eyesore. It remained abandoned for 25 years. It was scheduled to be torn down and was saved at the very last minute in 1999 by The Friends of the High Line. It is now owned by the City of New York and is a public park. But this is not just any park. It is actually a linear park, stretching nearly two miles. Five million people walk The High Line every year.
A field of Echinacea with a smokebush in the background.
On the day that we visited, even though it was extremely hot, the park was crowded with visitors. I heard so many different languages spoken all around me; this is a popular tourist attraction. Locals could be seen sitting in the shade of the birch groves, reading or sleeping. There was live music, art everywhere, food vendors selling everything from popsicles to gelato to espresso. There was an interactive gigantic Leggo display and an area where water flowed over the pavement and everyone took off their shoes and walked barefoot. 
Our tour guide told us that park was designed around the following concept:
Thimbleweed (Anemone cylindrica) happily seeded into the cracks in the stones.
The park was designed by the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller, Scofidio, and Renfro. The planting design was done by Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands. I have been studying his work for a long time and have visited Millenium Park in Chicago a few times, another one of his United States designs. Words cannot express how exciting it was for a plant geek like me to finally walk The High Line.
Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master) with Liatris
The impression that I walked away with was that the juxtaposition of wild looking, loose, prairie-type, native plants growing with abandon against the hard lines of the cityscape surrounding it made the whole thing simply magical. What a concept! A mass of Amsonia hubrechtii with Veronicastrum virginicum behind it framing the Empire State building in the distance. Billboards for expensive handbags with a sea of rattlesnake master Eryngium interwoven with Liatris at it's feet.
I was thrilled to realize that Natureworks already sells so many of the plants that we saw on Sunday. But, of course, there were many more that I didn't know and had to learn about. I took tons of pictures and when I returned home, studied the July blooming plant list given to us. I then went onto the High Line's VERY excellent website and downloaded the complete plant list they provided. Mysteries were solved and I was able to match photographs to plant names.
Aster umbellatus

Aruncus 'Horatio'

Salix eleagnos (rosemary leaf willow)

Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)

Magnolia macrophylla, the bigleaf magnolia, had us all talking. It was so tropical looking.
Silphium laciniatum

My FAVORITE! Silphium terebinthinaceum, also called prairie dock, with massive shiny leaves and tall spikes of yellow flowers.

Suzanne is shown here talking to Karen, both Natureworks employees who enjoyed the trip. Suzanne planned this entire trip and she did a great job.
Art was seen everywhere, but this was my favorite.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit The High Line. You will learn a lot and you will be impressed, as I was, at the creativity of man and the tenacity of plants in such an urban setting.


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