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Blog/Opinion: The High Line

Visiting the High Line is one of those magical experiences where once you taste it, you’ll want to go back for more. Several flights of stairs above the ground, designed on old railroad tracks (in operation from 1934-1980) with the buildings of Manhattan and the Hudson River as a backdrop, the High Line is paradoxically both a soothing and extraordinarily stimulating public park.


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The High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 20th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. When Section 2 of the park is completed in 2011, it will be a 1.45-mile-long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street on Manhattan’s West Side.


For more gardening insight and tips...

High Steet plants on tracksThe garden is designed with a large amount of native plants: once you get to the top of the stairs, you feel like you’re entering a prairie or meadow. “The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running.” (quoted from the High Line’s website)

High Steet plants on tracksThe High Line is also a green roof. In the Four Day Green Roof Boot Camp that I recently took, we discussed whether or not it met the requirements to be considered a green roof. The answer given by the instructor was a big ‘yes’.

But what I love most about the High Line is that it has become a meeting place for folks from NYC, surrounding areas and all over the world. It’s a public space that personifies what gardening professionals call ‘People and Plants’; the effect that plants have on people (and vice versa).

The gardens were designed by Piet Oudolf, about whom we have written several articles at Gardening Gone Wild. As always, Piet’s selection and planting of specimens was done with discipline and rigour. Walking through block after block of gardens, it is easy to think that his plant palette is minimalistic. But it isn’t. Check out the plant list: it consists of 210 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees that were chosen for their sustainability and hardiness. The gardens also incorporate many of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed. Although Piet doesn’t consider himself a colorist, his judicious placement of pinks, purples, magenta and soft white blooms dotted with orange (in June) suggests a well thought out and executed choice of color.

What’s really cool is seeing the specimens planted between the railroad tracks! It’s a good reminder of how any type of garden has the potential of giving birth in a ‘yet thought of place’; an inspiration for a lot of us gardeners to dare to create a garden ‘outside of the box’.


Photos: Fran Sorin



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The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


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(Note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.)

The High Line:  Created on July 19th, 2010.  Last Modified on August 1st, 2010

About Fran Sorin

Fran Sorin

Fran Sorin is a recognized gardening expert, ecologist, author, broadcaster, and journalist. Her book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, now considered a classic, was groundbreaking when published as no one had written about gardening in the context of creativity, spirituality, and transformation.

Fran’s faith in the healing power of nature informs all of her work. She believes that each of us benefits from being surrounded by the beauty and therapeutic effect of nature – at home, work, and in the city or town where we live. To facilitate the ability for city dwellers to interact with nature, she focuses on ecological landscape design, vertical green walls, green roof gardening, urban gardening, and sustainable urban agriculture.


Fran is the CBS Radio News Garden Contributor – her gardening features are heard several times a week on CBS Radio stations throughout the country. She has been a Regular Contributor on The Today Show and made appearances on Live with Regis and Kelly, CNN, HGTV, Discovery, DIY, Comcast, and NBC10 in Philadelphia. She has been the GardenSmart Contributor for USA Weekend Magazine, a Contributing Editor for Radius Magazine, and was instrumental in developing the iVillage Garden Channel.

Learn more about Fran and read dozens of articles she has written on her website, and at her group gardening blog:




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