The High Line in Person


high line before

Last week I finally saw the world-famous High Line Park in NYC and, like everyone with a pulse, I loved it.  And unlike some scolds complaining about gentrification and the high maintenance costs, I have nothing bad to say about it.  I’m even more impressed with it after finding the “before” photo above on the website of its plant designer, Piet Oudolf.

So no ranting from me, just a few of my favorite spots.


Not just plants, but art works, too.


There were so many billowing Amsonia hubrichtii, I might have to come back and see them in their fall glory – orange.


Oudolf chose primarily plants native to the Eastern U.S., though not exclusively, and not just the species.  Above, what looks like ‘Little Joe’ Joe Pye Weed or a similar shorter-than-species cultivar.


Sooo much blooming in early August!  Besides Sedums, Joe Pye Weed and Butterfly Weed, what else?


Hydrangeas offer a nice contrast to the sweeps of perennials.


I find this under-tree treatment very classy – the black pebbles, the bronze Heuchera and some feathery ornamental grass –  maybe Stipa?  Update: Thanks to Thomas Rainer for identifying this grass as Carex eburnea, not Stipa.


Even red-bloming Echinaceas looks terrific.  Thanks to two commenters for identifying this plant as Helenium autumnale.


Black-eyed Susans against the backdrop of a billboard telling us we need to fly off to a Mexican beach to find a touch of heaven.  I think not!


I can’t resist sharing this billboard, seen from the popular, street-view bleachers.


There’s even a water element here, one that’s increasingly seen in modern garden design – the water scrim.


The designers made sure to retain elements from the original historic freight line.


And it’s not all perennials – there’s a good-sized grove that refreshes in the August heat.


What surprised me the most about the High Line is this stretch of lawn – and how useful it is.  Nowhere else in the park could kids be set free to run around as they are here.  Plus, the lawn is calming, a nice contrast to all the plant exuberance in the rest of the park.

If you go, stroll the park like I did or click here to check for special events.  They include community dance parties, stargazing, and an early morning “Wild High Line Tour.”  All fabulous.

High Lines Everywhere?

The High Line is such a roaring success, with locals and tourists alike, that other cities want one of their own – plans are under way for Chicago, Philadelphia, Jersery City and St. Louis.  Actually, Paris started the new craze with its Promenade Plantée in 1988, according to this writer, who describes its landscaping as traditional, unlike the “relentlessly hip” High Line.  Well, if this is relentless hipness, I say bring it on!

Photo credit for “before.”


  1. And nowhere else can you find a view of a sassafras with the Empire State Building in the background!

  2. It’s lovely & one of the few reasons I’d want to go to New York. I wish other cities could take this lemons-into-lemonade approach instead of the more typical scrap-scrape-build method of re-building a city.

  3. Oh yay, more photos of this cool park! I want to see it in person one day. Surprised and pleased to hear more of them are under development after reading that it was hugely expensive to build. And what are the maintenance costs and chores, I wonder? Would love to read more about the nuts and bolts of it.

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse.

  4. Oh, I LOVE the planted RR track.
    Why is this park “relentlessly hip,” though? Just because it has a modern design-feature or two, instead of a baseball diamond?

  5. Yes, I love the Highline too. Not only because I am a Piet Oudolf fan, but also because as a native New Yorker I am amazed at the execution of such an audacious plan. (although I will go on record for knowing people with pulses who do not like the Highline, but then that’s what makes NYC NYC = the diversity)

  6. Witold R. is not a landscape architect or a garden designer.Therefore his opinion is irrelevant. The High Line is a perfect example of the kind of synergy that results when diverse and contradictory creative elements and visionary people all come together.

  7. Loved this tour of the “high line”!! So beautiful and gives me hope for a new American aesthetic. However my friend…I must point out that the “red Echinaceas” you mentioned are actually Helenium- an uber useful hardy garden perennial that can be grown in almost any climate.

  8. I don’t think you can blame the gentrification of Manhattan on gardens like the High Line. That is a complicated subject with changes in the business/manufacturing elements of the city playing a big part.

  9. If you go, stop in at the Chelsea Market (home of the Food Network), grab some really great food from one of a dozen or more excellent eateries, then walk out the west door of the building and take the elevator up to the Line (yes, after only one visit I became hipster enough to call it the Line) and enjoy your lunch.

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