I can’t help it … wherever I go, I end up seeking out gardens. The highlight of a recent visit to New York was The High Line, a derelict above-ground railway line which has now been transformed into an extraordinary park. It runs one and a half miles down the West side of Manhattan between 30th and 14th street.
Work on constructing The High Line started in 2006, following a campaign by local residents to preserve the old railway, which had been taken over by wild plants. The main garden designer for the project was Piet Oudolf, known for his landscapes composed of beautiful sweeps of perennials and his commitment to sustainable, robust but beautiful public planting. (He is part of Future Plants, the company that promotes the use of the ‘new perennials’, often neglected in earlier public planting projects. The list on their website is a really useful checklist for plant selection.
As you can probably judge from my photos, I visited The High Line on a dull rainy day; even in these least favorable conditions, The High Line was breath-taking.
We’ve avoided the former as they are tender annuals (and the lovely volunteer on The High Line booth confirmed that there was extensive replanting each year, something we want to avoid).
But catnip would fit, perhaps not in the shady garden where they might attract local cats, but in the Preston Circus Planters?
The wonderful planting, though, is just the micro level. The macro level inspiration is about finding public spaces made beautiful in unexpected ways. So much of the design of The High Line is about inviting people in, integrating people and planting in a harmonious space with benches, arbors, even a sun deck.
I can’t see us getting New York-esque café tables and chairs set up around the Preston Circus Planters, but … what about The Greenway? If you don’t know it, it’s a recently opened ‘nature reserve’ and walkway along the path of an old railway line at the back of Brighton’s New England Quarter. It leads over the Victorian iron bridge, crossing New England Road.
Opened after long negotiations in 2011, our Greenway now looks miserable, unloved, tattily planted and increasingly tagged. Can’t we celebrate our railway heritage here, and make our very own High Line?