the High Line in June

For about five days in mid-June a small group of us toured gardens on Long Island, NY, with the last day, Sunday, dedicated to visiting the High Line and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which seemed a perfect ending to the trip. I’d never visited the BBG before, and the High Line had opened a new extension since my two previous visits. But facing daunting logistics, including having to leave Brooklyn late on Sunday and find my way to a new hotel near JFK for the one night before the 6 a.m. flight on Monday morning, and squeezing in returning the rental car at some point, all these details broke me and I opted not to go. Instead I drove from Long Island to the hotel near JFK, checked in, drove to JFK to return the rental car, took the Air Train and then a hotel shuttle back to the hotel, where around 4 p.m. I called Marty (my husband) to let him know I had triumphantly mastered all these details, including navigating through some horrific New York traffic. Marty said well done, stay where you are, find something to eat, and don’t miss the 6 a.m flight Monday morning.

I then called MB Maher (my son) to deliver the same triumphant account, and he said, Are you crazy? You’re in New York and skipping the High Line?

I protested that it was 4:30 p.m., I was exhausted and hungry, having eaten nothing but raisins and peanuts all day, that the High Line’s website said the park closes at 7 (which I misread. It closes at 11 p.m during summer), and there was no way I could make the push to see the High Line this late in the day. Mitch wasn’t at all impressed with my recitation of timetables and repeated the Are you crazy? bit again, and I had to admit, yes, I would be crazy not to go.

So I found the hotel concierge, and within eight minutes of asking him how this cab thing worked, I was sitting in one and heading into Manhattan. Very slowly, in horrific traffic. In Los Angeles a cab ride experience comes along about as frequently as Haley’s Comet, and I had absolutely no frame of reference for suitable behavior, his or mine. My cab driver had never heard of the High Line, so I handed him my iPhone with a map. On the way, moving incrementally in mostly stalled traffic, I had grave doubts that the cab driver and I had successfully negotiated my destination and was certain only of the utter folly of the entire misadventure. But the traffic did ultimately thin out and before sunset we were in Chelsea, driving under those unmistakable railway trestles. I was chagrined to have doubted the driver, even though only in silence, tipped him heavily ($70 total), and arrived at the High Line by 6 p.m. And, yes, I would have been crazy not to go.

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Doubly crazy because the eremurus were still in bloom

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As were masses of Knautia macedonia

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Pink astilbe shockingly paired with orange milkweed

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With the sedums just coming into bloom

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Baptisia alba and liatris just coloring up

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So exciting to see Dalea purpurea in bloom. I just tucked a small dalea into my own garden.

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Echinacea species, maybe E. pallida

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Stachys ‘Hummelo’

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I have read that some locals consider the High Line too successful, and accuse the park’s gravity pull of distorting the surrounding neighborhood.

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The resulting construction boom I’ve been reading about since the park opened is everywhere in progress, and the park does become clotted with people at its narrowest walkways. But I haven’t been among this many excited people since the last hockey game I attended. There is an unmistakable sense among the strollers that they’ve arrived at a very special place and are participating in and affirming something truly wonderful. Camera phones clicked and visitors marveled at common plants like echinacea and other robust prairie plants and grasses that held their own against Manhattan’s skyline, something the typical park fare of bedding plants could never do. The dynamism of the seasonal plantings continually offers up new associations and perspectives and endless plant/city “combinations,” to use garden writing vernacular.

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Eremurus, dalea, and liatris

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Are the gigantic leaves inula?

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I’m not sure what allium has been planted, but it’s lovely even with the color drained away

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It was a hot, sticky New York evening, but the subway was icy cool on the way back to the hotel, and I was tucked in my room with a cold can of Fosters for dinner by 10 p.m. I did make the early flight (just barely) and settled in a middle seat between two largish men. Catching up on movies seemed a sensible option, and a choice offered was Steven Soderbergh’s lastest film Side Effects — small scenes of which were filmed at, yes, the High Line. This park has definitely arrived.

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16 Responses to the High Line in June

  1. Alison says:

    Thanks for deciding to go! I loved this long look at it. I’ve seen photos, but not usually quite so many. I guess I’m a glutton. I’ve filed that pink and orange combo away for future use. Shocking, yes, but I love it.

  2. Greggo says:

    Thanks so much for the tour stop, it’s cool to see a lot of our natives in an urban setting. And thanks for stopping by my garden also. Yes the Dalea is such a unique plant,mine are on their third year and can take the heat quite well.

  3. Denise says:

    @Alison, yep, glad I had that extra push. It was a wonderful evening. That pink/orange really sizzles, doesn’t it?
    @Greggo, it’s really quite the showcase for our natives, so many of which you grow so well.

  4. David says:

    Wow! Your son was correct! I would never guess these were scenes from New York City. What a beautiful garden. Hats off to the gardening staff for such delightful and beautiful choices for plants.

  5. kathy says:

    Well I must say , you had way better light for photos than we did in the blazing sun that morning..these are really lovely images ! Thanks to MB Maher for talking you into that 70 buck cab ride. I believe I am now fully recovered from all trips .

  6. Good for you! ($70, gulp)

    I think this just might be my fav Highline coverage ever. Of course the mental picture of you tucked in bed with a Fosters was the icing on the cake.

  7. Scott Weber says:

    I’m SO GLAD you made it to the High Line…it’s one of the places I absolutely MUST visit soon! Love the Dalea, of course, can’t wait to get mine in the ground…your photos are wonderful…and I’m glad MB was so persuasive 😉

  8. Denise says:

    @David, that’s a good point about the plantings. I should have stopped yacking about my travel woes and mentioned they were designed by Piet Oudolf.
    @Kathy, I could have probably made it out there on public transportation but thought the cab would be faster. In hindsight I doubt that it was.
    @Loree, I walked up to buy some water when I got back, and an Aussie in front of me said “I’ll have a Fosters.” That was all the nudge I needed!
    @Scott, so looking forward to your photos when you do visit. I’m thrilled that my little dalea already has buds on it!

  9. Les says:

    I am trying to recover from seeing the Astilbe and Asclepias combo. The color was not the shock to me, rather, it was the fact I liked it. Your post makes me want to pay another visit. BTW, thanks for clearing up who MB Maher is. I have often wondered who that remarkable photographer is you seem to pal around with. You have raised someone with a very good eye and should be proud.

  10. Denise says:

    I like it too, Les. And, yes, very proud of Mitch. We didn’t intend to make him a man of mystery but wanted to keep some professional distance and probably handled that a bit awkwardly 😉

  11. Hoov says:

    How utterly marvelous to see a public garden mobbed for something other than a plant sale or a Christmas light display.

    Also nice to see milkweed that hasn’t been eaten.

  12. Denise says:

    Hoov, that’s my feeling too. Lots of things spur gentrification. Just this one time let it be something as (dare I say it?) democratic as the High Line.

  13. Not inula? Cup plant? And I think garlic chives.

  14. Denise says:

    Rachel, the cup plant would be silphium? And I’m always surprised at how showy garlic chives are.

  15. Pam/Digging says:

    Your post is the next best thing to being there myself. I loved the whole story — you almost not going, wrangling a cab (they’re foreign here in Austin too), being in the garden in the soft light of early evening, in peak summer bloom, seeing the obvious popularity of the park, and picturing you tucked into bed afterward with a can of Fosters!

  16. Nell says:

    This is way after the fact, but I’m really thrown by the things in bloom together in June. What kind of upright sedum colors up so early, when Baptisia is still in bloom (though admittedly B. alba is significantly later than blue B. australis)? And garlic chives here never open until late August or early September, so I’d question that ID except for the sedum behavior… OTOH the High Line isn’t an ordinary garden environment, and the unusual combinations just add to the electricity.

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