Walking the High Line—a Living New York Landmark

Landscapes / September 25th, 2011
Sunny coreopsis, still in full summer bloom
Sunny coreopsis, still in full summer bloom.

The International Furnishings and Design Association hosted horticultural walking tour recently to raise money for its educational foundation. The High Line is a lovely two-mile-long park perched above New York City, starting at Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District and winding through Chelsea all the way to the Javitts tradeshow center along the West Side Highway. Originally built in the 1930s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement, the High Line hoisted freight traffic 30 feet in the air to remove dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. After ceasing to function in its original capacity in 1980, the tracks turned derelict until Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 to preserve the historic structure when it was threatened with demolition. Working in partnership with the City of New York they recreated the High Line as an elevated public park (click here to view some historic photos).

Over time, landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, along with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, developed the High Line’s public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened in June, 2009. The second section, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened earlier this year (a third section is scheduled to be developed in the near future). The IFDA board members and others who participated in the walking tour yesterday were treated to an explanation of many of the gorgeous and often eccentric plants along the way by the talented landscape designer Louis Raymond, who is based in Rhode Island and is otherwise know as the plant geek.

The High Line is just one of the many reasons to love New York. Here’s a sampling of the beautiful plants along the route, all showing their early autumn colors.

Japanese Clethera
Japanese Clethera, with fingerlike flowers.
Holly with bright red winterberries.
Holly with bright red winterberries.
Gibraltar pea plant
Gibraltar pea plant with complex magenta blossoms.
Periscopic Horsetail in Diane Von Furstenberg's bog.
Periscopic Horsetail in Diane Von Furstenberg’s bog.
Lablab purple leaf bean
Lablab purple leaf bean.
Rosa mudicom
Rosa mudicom with yellow flowers that mature to pink.
Sassafrass, the source of root beer.
Hearty plumbago,
Hearty plumbago, a great ground cover that blooms from August to October.
Sedum—its pale pink flowers look like broccoli heads before they mature.
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