Postcard From NYC: Walking the High Line (Plus, How to Bring Home Two of Its Flowers)

PHOTOS BY CHANTAL AIDA GORDON, ART BY AMY JEAN PORTER, COURTESY OF 20X200.

I was back in Brooklyn and Manhattan earlier this month, which is my favorite month to be in/live in/visit the city. It was a quick trip, during which Ryan was back in California working on a top-secret project that will be unveiled soon. In between seeing family and experiencing the fashionable and thrilling latest from the New York City Ballet (thanks to my dear friend Anthony!), I took some time for a solo stroll along the High Line.

An aerial modern meadow, the High Line is built on elevated freight train tracks that had fallen into disuse after 1980. The park first opened to the public in 2009, and now extends 1.45 miles from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street. That northernmost section, the High Line at the Rail Yards, just opened on September 21.

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In Chelsea, the spent blooms of the leadplant (Amorpha canescens, foreground) still look lovely against the Korean feather reed grass.

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Heath aster mobs a slatted bench.

On the day I visited, the Korean feather reed grass had rosy tips. Aromatic aster, tall tickseed and sea lavender were just a few of the species in bloom. The plantings here were inspired by the self-seeding flora that sprang up — for over two decades — after the trains stopped running, and today the clean engineered lines create an appealing chemistry with the plants’ general anarchy. We love coming back to see flowers and grasses bursting out between the strict, parallel cracks, an experience designed by James Corner Field Operations (Project Lead), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf. But you might remember our Q&A with Catie Maron last year about the High Line’s unique magic…

What else is blooming on the High Line in October? Here’s a nifty guide, straight from the park itself.

Coreopsis tripteris or tall tickseed

Plants in bloom included Missouri black-eyed susan, tall tickseeds and lots of asters: skyblue, spreading and heath, just to name a few.

Much to my undying anguish, I did not make it up to the new addition. But just last week to celebrate the opening of the Rail Yards, artist Amy Jean Porter released two beautiful renderings of High Line plants; the editions are available at 20×200 and will benefit Friends of the High Line. Keep reading for more plant photos and images of the art — prints of which you can buy, while they last, right here and here.

When winter comes, it’ll be nice to have some friendly, warm-weather blooms bursting from the wall.

—TH

Coreopsis tripteris or tall tickseed

Those yellow flowers are tall tickseed, or Coreopsis tripteris.

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Sumac meets street art.

Symphyotrichum ericoides heath aster and Muhlenbergia capillaris or pink muhly grass,

A cloud of heath aster flowers blows past the designated lines. Next to it is pink muhly grass, or Muhlenbergia capillaris.

Symphyotrichum ericoides heath aster

Bee right back.

Sumac berries

Sumac berries.

Calamagrostis brachytricha or Korean feather reed grass

Calamagrostis brachytricha, or Korean feather reed grass, adds organic haze to sculpted metal.

Calamagrostis brachytricha or Korean feather reed grass

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Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ or Jack Frost Siberian bugloss

#FromWhereIStand: Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost,’ or Jack Frost Siberian bugloss, sprawls across the bed. Peeking in along the sides are Boston ferns and the leaves of a magnolia macrophylla (on the upper left).

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From left: Foxtail Lily, Amy Jean Porter and 20×200; Star of Persia, Amy Jean Porter and 20×200.

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Foxtail Lily, Amy Jean Porter and 20×200. (Print and framing options here.) About these ‘exclamation marks,’ Amy notes in her artist statement, ‘from a distance you might imagine them eye­-to­-eye with passersby, commenting on the weather and making small talk.’

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Star of Persia, Amy Jean Porter and 20×200. (Print and framing options here.) ‘For this drawing,’ Amy says in her artist statement, ‘I made the flower just past its puffy purple bloom stage in May and on its way to the seedhead…Its stars are distinct, blooming and fading forever.’

  • Lee Roversi

    wonderful piece on a wonderful place. i miss manhattan!

    • Thanks, Lee! It’s nothing short of a dream to look out onto Chelsea traffic while being tickled by wildflowers.