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. While we were there, we worked in a little garden travel too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.