On our recent visit to New York, a relative who lives in Chelsea shared The Highline with us, a park built on an old elevated railway line. I was so impressed with the beauty of the plantings, the way the surrounding urban landscape was incorporated into the views--in much the same way that Japanese gardens use "borrowed" scenery. Here's a photo of a mass planting of astilbe, and you can see how water runs off the channels. I spoke to a Friends of the Highline volunteer and she explained how they do as much watering through rain runoff as possible. No pesticides are used either-- she described a recent problem with scale on a group of maples and they'd brought in ladybugs to deal with it. The Highline actually employs more gardeners than Central Park, which is not surprising. Central Park is not really about flowers; Vaux and Olmsted, instead, envisioned it as a picturesque landscape that would offer grassy meadows, and distant views of trees, more of an approximation of the "wild" as it was understood in the 19th century. The Highline is more of a city promenade, and I found the plantings a delightful place to rest the eyes--in Manhattan you can be overwhelmed by the masses of people passing by on the street, and these flowers and plants give a respite from that. There were indeed masses of people strolling by, but the plants and trees gave small intimate views of something besides tall buildings and claustrophobic corridors. None of the buildings near the Highline are tall, and the breezes blow in off the River, so there is real refreshment there. I really loved the choice of plants--to the right is a smoke bush; what a great design to place it in the context of the rich brick building behind it.
To the left is a rose, mutabilis, and it's delightful how cheerfully it fits in to the brick wall, and painted white wall beside it.
There are even small trees, and this group of birches at the south end gives a small taste of a northern forest. I was really amazed at the foresight of the volunteers and New York City planners and private partners who brought this park into being. Without their vision, the old elevated rail tracks were destined to be torn down, and would probably have been replaced by skyscrapers.