Two years ago, in early December 2016, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in New York City, my first visit for eight years. At the top of my ‘must-sees’ was the High Line, the linear park which runs along a disused elevated railway track to the west of mid-town Manhattan. 30 feet above the city streets, the High Line is a perfect platform from which to survey the cityscape: the cross town streets and the canyon of Tenth Avenue.
The park’s landscaping is the work of Dutch landscape architect, Piet Oudolf, whose name is now synonymous with ‘prairie’ style planting where herbaceous perennials rub shoulders with numerous grass species. I have seen his work in the double borders at RHS Garden Wisley and hope to visit the garden he designed at the Hauser & Wirth gallery at Durslade Farm in Somerset in the coming year. Even on a cold December morning, the 1.45 mile long park displayed pockets of intriguing plants. I was especially struck by the unexpected sight of mature trees growing a few feet from the second storey windows of offices and apartment buildings. The site’s industrial past is embraced and grasses push up between complicated rail junctions. Every so often we encountered gardeners tending the planted areas and I saw a sign advertising for volunteers to help maintain what has become a major tourist attraction in the city.
Quirky sculptures and installations occur along the length of the High Line: here a car built of car tyres, there an alternative hand-typed political manifesto on a billboard several metres high. And in this park one has the rare opportunity in crowded Manhattan to stand and appreciate the monumental architecture of the city, the sky-scraping edifices of central Manhattan to the north and of the Financial District to the south. Craft plying the Hudson River glimpsed between buildings two avenues to the west are a reminder of New York’s maritime and mercantile foundations.
We were walking along the High Line on the way to lunch with a cousin and friends at Gene’s Restaurant on West 11th Street: a chance to catch up with dear people at their favourite Italian. En route I glimpsed Christmas trees for sale on a street corner and not for the first time in New York it felt like a scene from a movie. In this case ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Meg Ryan single-handedly drags the tree back to her apartment.
I’m keeping it brief for this post on Christmas Eve and wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year. Here’s to plenty of gardening work, visits and writing in the year to come. And thank you for reading my posts thus far.