Friday, July 23, 2010

Traveling the High Line

I took advantage of an early Sunday morning during last weekend's trip to Manhattan to explore the High Line. I'd read a lot about this smart, sensitive, and refreshingly whimsical re-visioning of the urban landscape.  Originally built in Lower Manhattan during the 1930's as an elevated railway, the High Line tracks were laid through the center of buildings in order to collect goods without affecting street traffic.  Since it was decommissioned in 1980, the derelict railway has been in eyesore. Starting in 1999, a group of inspired activists initiated a move to re-use this urban space.  Much work later, in June 2009, Section I (Gansevoort Street to 20th Street) opened to the public.

Because of its elevation, long urban vistas unroll from all angles.  A cross-town canyon stretches beyond a screen of Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum "Gateway"),  purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea "Vintage Wine"), and broadleaf ironwood (Vernonia glauca).

The quintessential New York skyline of a rooftop water tank on a block-built modernist building is softened by foreground grasses.

Rather than trying to force the High Line into the ill-fitting form of a romantic garden or a greensward park, the designers played with its abandoned urban history:  they incorporated lots of native plants, like this familiar wasteland tree (oh, what is its name?) and Ohio goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis), and included species that had been growing on the tracks.

The plant selections are in tonal harmony with the reds, greys, and browns of the built environment.  Here, layers of grasses, silvery coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea "Jade"), and pale pink American boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) echo the stone facade behind.

The seed heads of  many flowering plants, like these drumstick alliums, remained intact, giving just the right mix of color and texture.

How great that the park attendant I asked could give me the Latin names of the plants I asked about!  But there were so many varieties I was interested in.  Next time, I'll bring a copy of that month's plant list with me!

A couple of days after my visit, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded to the High Line founders the 2010 Jane Jacobs Medals. Congratulation to the most deserving recipients whose work "creates new ways of seeing and understanding New York City, challenges traditional assumptions, and creatively uses the urban environment to make New York City a place of hope and expectation."  And forward to the future!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Hard pruning

"This thing is out of control," groused my husband as he slipped under a spray of "New Dawn" rose canes blocking his entry through the kitchen door.  "What the heck are you feeding that?" asked my neighbor from his yard next door.  "Yikes!" I thought when I saw the tussle of rose blossoms clambering up to a second floor window.

Such was the impetus for my most despised gardening activity: rose pruning.  I have to admit--as if I could claim otherwise in the flowery face of the evidence--that I had kind of let things go.  A couple of years, I really couldn't prune because I didn't want to disturb the birds nesting in the arbor.  Another year, it was just too dang hot.  My mother, an excellent rosarian, was no longer around to take up the task.   Meantime, canes sprouted, curved, flopped, and grew some more.

With several days of cool, clear weather forecast, I set to pruning every evening after work.  After more than five hours teetering on a ladder and after accumulating over five bags of clippings, I can say that I'm done.

It was hard to prune, and I pruned darn hard. My mother's rallying cry--"Whack it out!"--spurred me along.  She was a ferocious rose pruner--my tender-hearted father couldn't even bear to be around when she was wielding her clippers--and every time that I wondered WWMD, I knew the answer was cut, cut, cut.

Anything that was where it shouldn't be was snipped off.  (Almost all) distorted canes were removed.  Deadwood was clipped.  New canes were tied to the arbor.  A good 1 1/4 cup of Rose-Tone was scratched in around the roots.

And then, among the debris of shorn branches, there was even the thank you of a few last blooms!