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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label Piet Oudolf. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label Piet Oudolf. Show all posts

      Wednesday, August 5, 2009


      One month after I took my first astonishing walk on The High Line, I returned with my family to view the miracle that has been wrought in the Old Meat Packing District of New York City.The Friends of the High Line and the design teams they selected have transformed an elevated section of dysfunctional railroad track built in 1930, into New York City’s newest park. I insisted that my visiting family see for themselves.

      Summer has brought a
      meadow-like effect with
      strips of native and
      non-native flowering
      perennials and grasses.
      Trees and shrubs provide
      some height. On that
      Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
      only a few runners, a
      man with his coffee and
      MacBook, and some
      quiet strollers joined us.
      As the morning pro-
      gressed, more people

      I saw the city in a new
      and secret way. As
      traffic honked below, I
      was eye level with sec-
      ond floors and roofs of
      other buildings. There
      was bird song.
      Some sumac was in fruit.
      I spied the only building
      that Architect Frank
      Gehry has designed and
      built in New York City. I
      glimpsed a large liner
      and tug on the Hudson
      River and walked around
      the top of the Chelsea
      Market. It’s all here.

      There are just enough
      glimpses of rusty track,
      wooden ties and details
      evoking memories of
      the old railroad,
      that I had the same
      frisson as I did when
      as a girl, I walked the
      forbidden Pennsy RR
      tracks two doors away
      from our home. I fantasized putting a copper penny on these tracks, and having a steam locomotive roll over it to produce a flat souvenir as I did years ago.

      On prominent display now, drifts of gay feather (Liatris spicata), not one of
      my favorite garden flowers but here buffeted by the winds, looking as if it
      belongs; three cultivars of coneflower (Echinacea purpurea); blackeyed
      Susans; a lovely variety
      of Joe Pye (Eupatorium
      dubium ‘Little Joe’) that
      I grow on my roof in a
      container; the silvery
      fragrant native herb,
      Mountain Mint
      muticum); Sedum
      telephium ‘Red Cauli’; and bright red sneezeweed (Helenium x ‘Rubinzweig’).

      My girls, both plant
      lovers and gardeners
      were suitably impressed.
      My son-in-law who has
      the critical eye of one
      who does historical
      restorations for a living
      has nothing but positive
      words for those who
      saved this structure.
      And my husband, an
      avid non-gardener is
      wowed by the beauty
      and serenity of this
      special city hide-out.

      Notes of warning. I'm
      told The High line gets
      crowded weekends and
      holidays midday and

      A second section from
      W. 20th St. to W. 30th
      St. opened in June '11and an additional spur line north of 30th St.is still is awaiting redevelopment.
      Turn up the sound on your computer and click bottom right tear-drops to view the BEFORE pictures on video full screen.

      BEFORE, NYC from ellen platt on Vimeo.

      Friday, June 26, 2009

      getting high in NYC

      I am proud to be a New Yorker.

      New Yorkers love to complain, and I admit, I do my share. But not this time. I am insanely grateful to the powers that be: the NYC Parks Department, the extremely talented designers, the many wealthy benefactors. What an insanely wonderful gift this park is! Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to The High Line.

      A single post can't do it justice. I'd need one to extoll the landscape design (James Corner Field Operations together with Piet Oudolf), another to praise the architecture (Diller Scofidio + Renfro), several posts to cover individual plants, and I'd still want to rave about the synergistic combination of the Manhattan skyline with the planted landscape.

      As an entirely inadequate introduction to the park, here's a little history.

      The High Line is an elevated railroad structure built in the 1930s, running from Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district to 34th Street, next to the Javits Center. It allowed for the movement of freight by rail without clogging street traffic, and spurs were built to enter directly into the second floors of warehouses. Abandoned since 1980, the tracks were quickly colonized by hardy volunteer plants, which inspired the naturalized planting style of The High Line park today.

      South of 30th Street, The High Line is owned by the City of New York. It was donated to the city by CSX Transportation, which still owns the northern portion (30th Street to 34th Street). Although neighborhood residents organized to save the High Line from destruction in 1999, construction on the first section didn't begin until 2006.

      The second section (20th to 30th Street) opened in 2011. Those of us who thought nothing could top the first installment were stunned and amazed to discover the delights of The High Line, part two. The future of the third section is tied to the development of The Hudson Rail Yards; construction should begin in 2012.

      The High Line opens at 7 am, a great time to have it almost to yourself. For more details about hours, directions, and access, visit www.thehighline.org.

      Everywhere you look, the juxtaposition of bricks, mortar, and steel with sweeps of prairie flowers and ornamental grasses tells you you're not in Kansas anymore.

      A grove of 3-flowered maple trees (Acer triflorum) softens a corner of the elevated railway.

      Drought tolerant stonecrop (Sedum telephium 'Red Cauli') and companion grasses naturalize between concrete planks, imitating the original volunteer plants that colonized the railroad tracks.

      Who could resist the wooden chaises, positioned for lazy gazing across the Hudson?

      I struggle to communicate the significance of this park. So do me a favor, don't take my word for it. Get down there and see it for yourself. You won't be sorry.

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