October on The High Line

One of the highlights of my Halloween weekend in NYC was a trip to see The High Line (see the great video below for a brief history of this gem in New York, narrated by Ethan Hawke).

The High Line is an elevated park located on the West Side, in the west part of Chelsea in the Meatpacking District. It runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Open from 7 am to 8 pm daily during the winter, admission is free. ( I couldn’t find its hours during other times of the year but I’m sure they are on the High Line website somewhere).

It’s an amazing stretch of open park space elevated above the city streets, owned by the City and operated by its Parks Department. When all sections are finished it will be 1-1/2 miles long. Its integrated landscape, designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, in consultation with the great Piet Oudolf, grows around precast-concrete planks that allow its railbed covering to transition from complete hardscape to complete vegetation. The planks have open joints that allow grasses and other naturalistic plantings to grow through cracks in the “sidewalk.” (In addition to input from the designers, apparently the planting choices were influenced at least in part by what was found to have survived when the design work started.)

Precast-concrete "planks" with asters, ornamental grasses and other drought-tolerant perennials growing through them.

When I visited in late October, I was impressed by how lush the plantings were even as winter approached. Oudolf’s influence was evident. I saw ornamental grasses, Amsonia hubrechtii turning golden, white coneflowers, and other tough drought-tolerant plantings.

White coneflowers blooming in October between the concrete "planks" of the walkway.

Amsonia hubrechtii and ornamental grasses near the old tracks.

What was equally interesting, however, were the areas in which I saw plants I think of as needing more shade and water – Heuchera or coral bells, for example, planted near small stands of white birches. The coral bells I saw looked quite good, whether because they were recent replacements or because the spring and summer in the city had been more moisture-laden than usual.

Heuchera (coral bells) and white birches on a section of the High Line.

At the end of the line (for now), there were masses of asters in bloom, providing a colorful coda to our walk.

Asters and birches at the end of the High Line

The next section of the High Line (20th St. to 30th St.) is projected to open in 2010. Check it out the next time you’re in New York, needing a “green space” fix and nowhere near Central Park.

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4 Comments on “October on The High Line”

  1. sequoiagardens Says:

    Fascinating, Melissa! Thanks for posting! (Really love the asters and birches at the end, especially.) Jack

  2. Melissa Says:

    Jack, thanks for your interest and comments!

  3. Desiree Says:

    Great post. It’s so cool that this landscape just established itself in spite of the conditions, and even more amazing that it avoided demolition. Are the rails still there? Do you walk along a path within the rails? Thanks, Melissa!

    • Melissa Says:

      Yes, the rails are still there (you can see some of them in the photo of the coneflowers). But the walking path is in the center of the area – it’s those pre-cast concrete planks that have been created with areas for plants to fill in. The width of the walkway varies but it never feels crowded.

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