Friday, March 6, 2015

The Siberian Express on the High Line

I walked south down the High Line yesterday in a snowfall that one month ago would have had governors pushing panic buttons and killing the subway. Now, we're lucky if we get a snow plough.

There was some slipping and sliding, but mostly it was beautiful. And empty.

Yesterday's snow was voluptuous and stuck to everything.

Witch hazels are beginning to bloom. Another few days and you'll see them at their best: open, against a backdrop of white.

In early spring there will be a call for volunteers and a great cutting back of perennials and the remaining grasses. It's a good idea to let ornamental grasses stay up all winter long, because of the brittle structure they give to winter-blasted landscapes.

Below: a pad beside the High Line can be yours for $20 million. You, too, can stare at tourists, staring at you, staring at you staring at them, staring at...

I wrote about the potential shade-impact of the new construction, last July

Winterberrries - Ilex verticillata.

The grasses on the right, below, are mostly the panic grasses of late summer, Panicum spp. from the prairies. I love them - very airy, open seedheads. This same area is made dramatic by Eremurus in June.

Sumac - Rhus typhina, the staghorn species, with tiny hairs on each tiny fruit.

Birches seem built for snow. Did you know that you can tap them for sap, like maples? An easy way to collect their sap is to snip a bunch of very small branches, tie them together, stick them into the neck of a container, and weigh(t) it or tie it down, allowing gravity to pull the clear liquid into the bottle. It's a slow process - you may collect a couple hundred milliliters over 24 hours using this scrappy method. The flow will vary depending on how quickly the sap is rising. It can be drunk raw, fermented, or turned into syrup; in the latter case you a lot. Turning the sap into syrup involves ratios ranging from a reported 130 parts sap to 1 of syrup to 40:1. (No I have never tried; but you can, if you have a birch, alone and palely loitering.)

The Standard Hotel and, below it, black monolith sculptures, interfering with some perfectly beautiful trees.

I skidded down to the Meat Packing District, hoping to sneak into Pastis for a bowl of onion soup, only to find the McNally institution... Gone. The building is a shell, with steel I-beams rising in the middle of the shell. Apparently it closed in February, 2014. And I had just passed the late, very lamented Florent, shuttered for eight years.

But today it's a bright, bright sunshiny day, says Weather Underground. On the High Line the witch hazels will be thawing and above it the sky is blue. The place will be a New York snowland miracle, courtesy of the Siberian Express.

Take some wodka in a flask, bring some smoked fish from Chelsea Market, and a few slices of black bread. Sit on a bench in a big furry hat and have a Russian picnic.



  1. You are amazing. Here is NYC cosied up in stale air and you are striding along High Line, breathing fresh, frozen air, taking beautiful pictures for us in smokey Cape Town (and the world ) to see. Well done, by the way, on the Platteland piece. The corgis and I loved it.

  2. Love the High Line. Your pictures are beautiful. Except for the buildings trying to crowd out one of the most spectacular walks in all of the city! Looks like better weather is in store for you and me this week.

  3. Brr! You're a hardy soul. I'm cold just looking at your photos although the snow does cover winter debris and make everything lovely.

  4. It does look nice. Here in Boston it is finally sunny, but still bitterly cold, and the six-foot walls of snow are only very slowly receding.

  5. There's an orangey-rosy witch hazel just inside the 79th Street entrance to Central Park that I enjoyed against the snow and the even white light of 5:30 on Thursday. A wonderful color among the duns, grays, and whites of winter, though in June you might miss it entirely.

  6. Your photographs are just beautiful. I've never seen NY in the winter, I've only ever been there in summer and spring. It's hard to imagine it all covered in snow.

  7. Ha...Florent...early in the morning.


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