I can’t get enough of the High Line. I’ve visited three times in the last two years, but now that I’m stuck for a while on the other side of the planet, I can’t understand why I didn’t go back several times on each visit to New York. Michael Hatton – a Shepparton-based designer – told me that he went every morning and every night for the three weeks he was in town. Why didn’t I do that?
There’s a million things to love about it, but a new aspect that revealed itself on this last visit is the discretion that is shown, and is clearly able to be shown (for too often in public spaces the latter stands in the way of the former), with regard to when perennials are cut back in spring.
A bit of background:
My next-door neighbour visited the High Line in late winter. It was freezing, and there was nothing but the skeletons of last year’s growth. He absolutely loved it.
My brother and sister-in-law visited about a month before me, in mid April, at the end of the major cut-back. They appreciated it, and could see its merits, but really noted the lack of greenery. Hardly a plant to be seen.
One of the group that came with me in the first week of May had visited about two weeks earlier. As I raved about it to the group in the lead up to the visit, I could see that she was being rather more cautious in her enthusiasm. She warned me that, given the late season, I might be just an eency bit disappointed.
No such thing. It was incredible. This member of the group was blown away by how it had been transformed by a fortnight of growth.
There was a little evidence, here and there, of the recent cut back, but it was very, very green, and there were lovely patches of bulbs everywhere. Never a great show, as such, just diffuse smatterings as you might find in the wild.
Now back to the main point: About half way along, we stumbled across this stand of dead stems – the tall, grey skeletons of one of the Joe-Pye weeds (Eupatorium sp).
Our eyes had become so saturated in fresh green that the dead-grey was striking. There was probably a dozen or so skeletons retained along about twenty metres of the garden. As you’d expect on The High Line, and any planting by Piet Oudolf, they bounced around on both sides of the path, and echoed off into the near distance.
I loved the fact that someone, in the middle of the cut-back, had decided to retain these tall stems just a bit longer. They were probably cut down within a week or two of us being there, but I loved that their height lifted above the carpet of green growth, and curiously drew attention to or focus upon the lady tulips (Tulipa clusiana) that were reasonably repetitively planted at their feet.
It would have made good, practical sense to have cut them down with all the rest of the dead stuff, but good practical sense was over-ridden by inspired aesthetics. How often do you see that in public places?
A few more time comparisons, for no good reason…