Friday, August 12, 2011

Late summer High Line

After gardening in Alphabet City yesterday, I trekked west across town on the L and walked to the High Line, not seen since June, when the Eremurus were in bloom. Vince took a picture of the stunning Rudbeckia here, in the Chelsea Grasslands section, two weeks ago, and yesterday I caught it on the perfect cusp before its downward turn.

The most surprising plant, or plants, were what turned out to be prairie dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum (quelle mouthful), the tall slender stems above, at least 10', and the previously statuesque Silphium laciniatum [see comments for ID, thanks Paul Westervelt], below, which were in the process of flopping all over the place.

More of the prairie dock, below. See the big leaves...

The switch grass in the foreground below is Panicum virgatum "Shenandoah", one of my all-time favourites, and apparently one of Piet Oudolf's, too.

Speaking of which, there is a new book, if my fairy godmother is listening...Piet Oudolfs' Landscape in Landscapes, also featuring his design schemes, which are comforting to an old school paint-on-paper person, like me (I now call them 'vintage' designs). I saw it at GRDN the other day. Gorgeous.

The late season leaves of Amsonia are very pretty in their own right. They bloom, blue, in late spring, but this is almost better.

Broadleaf ironweed is the purple - Vernonia glauca.

The rusty mound is sneezeweed, Helenium "Ruby Tuesday", the white, wild quinine Parthenium integrifolium, the switch grass to the right.

More prairie dock.

The High Line is not exactly a well kept secret. And while I sat and waited for Vince to leave work nearby, I watched a variety of visitors yesterday do some trampling and squashing. A German couple sat down in a raised planter (it was shaded, unlike the nearby and empty bench) and squashed the grasses with their bottoms and backpacks. A bored Italian boy repeatedly scuffed some calamintha while his parents watched. But, considering the volume of traffic, things are in very good shape.

An exciting place.

Here's the full list of August blooms.

What I am looking forward to, though, is the High Line under snow.


  1. I just got this book, it is awesome!! P. O. is my garden design hero, and has influenced me more than any other. I long to see that NY high line for myself (what a genius city-enhancing decision that was), and your wonderful photos have just made me that more desperate to walk it! Thanks for sharing them and inspiring me this Friday morning. Bx

  2. The ideal prairie.

    Hey, is that switchgrass the same that grows in every cheap field and rampart around here? I've always loved the purple mist it creates. There's tons of it, low growing of course, around Tilden.

  3. Wow, Marie. Daar's 'n storie oor die High Line in die volgende VISI. Ek het glad nie van die plek geweet nie. Toe ek en Peter die foto's sien, het ons geweet dis tyd om weer vir New York te begin spaar. Lieflik. En jy skryf so onderhoudend daaroor. Johan, Koringberg

  4. Beautiful pics, as always :) I HAVE to get up there at some point! I've heard snow is a real challenge for the high line because they can't just shovel it over the side - has to be brought down in buckets. I'm interested in your take on it. And one small plant ID note - the possible Helianthus from early in the post might actually be Silphium laciniatum. I'm a huge Silphium fan even though they list a good bit on occasion.

  5. Belinda - look forward to meeting you on the High Line!

    Frank, yeah it is rather idealised. I think it is the same switch grass.

    Hello Johan! Regtig? Ek moet se, daar is 'n klomp mooi natuurlike plekke in NYC, mense verwag dit nie. 'n Soort van green underground. Behalwe hier: very above ground...ja, kom kuier.

    Paul, yes, you rock! Thank you - shall change it.

  6. I've seen James over at A View From Federal Twist post Highline pics often, and yours are just as stunning. I think I have ever one of those plants you listed in my 1500 foot "prairie" and after a windstorm, the tall ones finally started to flop, alas. I love tall plants. I have a 10' joe pye and a 12-14' ironweed. Enjoying your blog!

  7. Frank - low growing pink mist of a grass sounds like Eragrostis spectabilis, but only if it's VERY low growing...a foot max. I've always loved it as a tougher (and hardier) sub for Muhlenbergia.

  8. About the snow...I was told that, after the Christmas blizzards, it would be unwalkable.Too dangerous, apparently, but I wish I'd made a greater effort and tried again in February.
    Another reason I need to return!

  9. Benjamin - why thank you! Your prairie sounds wonderful.

    Paul - er, good catch, the, er..low growing part. Phew. Stick around.

    dinahmow - dangerous? EXCITING! Well, that snow was a little excessive, perhaps.

  10. No taller than a foot. But then, sometimes the fields are mowed.

  11. Beautiful photographs! I saw the High Line in September, sort of after all the summer blooming and before the fall colors. It was still quite amazing and I am determined to go back in every season. I too am a Piet Oudolf fan-see the Lurie garden in Chicago if you have the chance!


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