A trip to High Line Park

A visit to the New York City and the High Line.

We just returned from New York City. Visiting the Big Apple during the Christmas season was on our bucket list, and this year we made it happen. Bill and I went to Manhattan in February 2008 with Bill’s youngest sister, Maria, and her husband, Curt. I also went as a high schooler when I was seventeen.

A beautiful view of the Hudson River and stark trees against a blue sky on the High Line.
A beautiful view of the Hudson River and stark trees against a blue sky on the High Line.

Last week, we went back to New York with our traveling companions and what fun we had! Part of our visit had to be a trip to High Line Park, located thirty feet above the busy streets near Chelsea Market and the Meatpacking District. Although it was early winter, our visit was still extraordinary. Last summer, I did a lot of research on the High Line for a project, and it was magical to see the abandoned railway and gardens come alive beneath my feet.

Benches on rollers at the High Line. I believe these benches are made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) ipe. In Phase I of construction which opened in 2009, wooden elements were constructed of FSC ipe, which was criticized. Phase II used reclaimed teak. Both types of wood weather to a silvery gray.
Benches on rollers at the High Line. I believe these benches are made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) ipe. In Phase I of construction which opened in 2009, wooden elements were constructed of FSC ipe, which was criticized. Phase II used reclaimed teak. Both types of wood weather to a silvery gray.

Visit High Line Park in any season.

Winter is a great time to visit because you can truly see the bones of the garden and its structure without flowers to entice you. I’ve read that winter is the garden’s designer, Piet Oudolf’s, favorite season to visit. I think it’s his favorite season in his gardens period.

Abandoned tracks jut into planting beds which is part of what this park symbolizes, the urban hardscape melding with natural soft textures.
Abandoned tracks jut into planting beds which is part of what this park symbolizes, the urban hardscape melding with natural soft textures.

The next time I walk the High Line I’d like to return in September when the ornamental grasses and asters are at peak bloom. Click on the photos in the galleries to make them larger.

Oudolf found much of his inspiration from plants that self-seeded during the railway’s fallow years. Before construction of the park, the people who created the Friends of the High Line organization climbed up to the railway and were surprised by nature’s resiliency.

After much care from humans–isn’t that always the way–the garden grew and took on a wilder aspect very pleasing to the eye.

The garden contains over 500 species of plants. You can download a complete plant list from the Friends of the High Line. Here, also, is a bloom list from August 2016. 

Taking photos of the flora and fauna with the sun at my back makes for interesting shadows at the High Line.
Taking photos of the flora and fauna with the sun at my back makes for interesting shadows at the High Line.

If you’d like to read more about the gardens of the High Line, there is a book for you! Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes, (Timber Press) written by Piet Oudolf and photographed by Rick Darke came out last summer. I haven’t read it yet, but perhaps I shall.

Mutations by Dora Budor, an art installation for 2017 at the High Line. Artwork is featured throughout the park.
Mutations by Dora Budor, an art installation for 2017 at the High Line. Artwork is featured throughout the park.

Our visit.

We entered on the “slow stairs” next to the Whitney Museum of American Art and walked the entire 1.5 miles. We got there as the park opened at 7:00 a.m., so there was little foot traffic except for the occasional jogger. As we ended our stroll, the High Line was starting to fill up with pedestrians walking and running. City dwellers and tourists alike adore this park, and so it is well-traveled. I noticed signs throughout alerting visitors not to step on plants. Originally, the planting areas weren’t fenced, but now workers must fence them because the walkways are so well traveled. The fences are actually small chains that don’t take away from the garden.

Below is a Facebook Live video of our visit. I was in the prairie meadow section of the park.

Situated in the center of a busy commercial area, the High Line juxtaposes nature with concrete and steel. It’s known for its dynamic design features including peel-up benches, concrete risers that blend in with the railway lines and planks with open joints that melt into grasses and perennials. The High Line revitalized the surrounding neighborhood, and I noticed tall buildings being erected nearby. There are many new office buildings and hotels in an area that was once nearly desolate.

Cool new building next to the High Line. So many new buildings were being erected it was hard to capture them all.
Cool new building next to the High Line. So many new buildings were being erected it was hard to capture them all.

The railway that was built in 1934–because 10th Avenue was once called “Death Avenue– is now essentially a green roof garden. Nature, industry, and nature again form and reform. For me, it’s symbolic of life, death, and rebirth.

Great perspective shot from the High Line.
Great perspective shot from the High Line.

The High Line exists only because two citizens who lived on the west side were concerned about their neighborhood and the abandoned, elevated railway. Joshua David and Robert Hammond, separately attended a community board meeting to discuss the fate of the line. At the meeting, they became interested its preservation. Afterward, they talked and decided to do something. They helped create the Friends of the High Line, the group that guided the eventual park and gardens.

If you’d like to read an insider’s view of the High Line, check out Living the High Line blog, by Annik La Farge. It has great information.

The High Line was one of many highlights of our trip. Yeah, I know that’s a pun, but I had to go there. If you go to the New York City, you simply must visit. It’s a worthy stop whether you’re a garden traveler or not.

 

 

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