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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Saturday
Nov192011

The Gardens on "The High Line" and the Power of Nature.

Last week, eminent American journalist, Charlie Rose, welcomed a group of dedicated New Yorkers to his round table, for his nightly PBS televised broadcast. The interview coincided with the publication of a book celebrating New York City’s latest and second most popular tourist attraction, The High Line, a park in the sky.

thehighline.orgThe High Line was an abandoned elevated railway line that still runs through three different New York City neighborhoods. Many years ago, it carried freight trains to and from the meat-packing district, an industrial zone of Manhattan.

thehighline.orgWhen it ceased its usefulness, the rail service was abandoned. During the many years of neglect, nature moved in and, unknown to most Manhattan residents, created a ribbon-field of wild flowers that smothered the tracks and rail beds.

The original wild growth, http://www.thehighline.orgVery stiff opposition arose when there was talk of demolishing the elevation in order to rejuvenate the surrounding commercial properties. On one side were the real estate developers who wanted it gone in order to enhance the monetary value of the adjacent, deteriorated neighborhoods.

The wildflowers they discovered, http://www.thehighline.orgOn the other side was a group of a few conservationists who, having seen the awesomeness that nature and the wild flowers had visited upon the elevation, wanted the High Line preserved as a public park. In the end, the conservationists prevailed.

The new gardens, thehighline.orgOnce considered an eyesore, the High Line cut through derelict industrial slums. Now, it has been transformed into an idyllic park that seems to float, thirty feet above ground, for a distance of a mile and a half. This urban redesign has also spawned cultural centers nearby as well as several world-class architectural projects. The beauty of the adjacent new buildings and the almost magical atmosphere of the park have enriched the quality of life for urban residents of New York City.

The new gardens, thehighline.orgMost of the publicity about this park, emanating from the world of horticulture, has understandably focused upon the genius of Piet Oudolf. Unquestionably, the four-season, wildflower meadow plantings he designated for the High Line contribute significantly to its successful transformation and its popularity.

thehighline.orgHow odd that very little has been reported about the benevolent intervention of the visionary Diane Von Furstenburg and her husband, Barry Diller, whose philanthropic foundation underwrote the project for the sum of twenty five million dollars. Nor have we heard much about Amanda Burden, chair of the New York City Planning Commission, whose strategic and wise negotiations with intransigent property developers helped turn the project from an ideal dream of a few into a reality that benefits many.

thehighline.orgHowever, most of the honor must go to ordinary citizens, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, whose passion for the preservation of this natural anomaly - that each had quietly discovered on his own - was the impetus to start the project. Collectively, these four individuals unwittingly gave new meaning to the concepts of urban renewal and urban design.

thehighline.orgWho would have thought that a handful of urbane residents, in one of the most densely populated, industrialized cities in our universe, would tackle a project wedded to the power of nature? In the end, the group known as The Friends of The High Line created one of the great horticultural destinations of the world. This socially vibrant public space, fully wheel chair accessible, has already attracted over seven million visitors in less than a few years.

thehighline.orgThe photos used here to illustrate the story were taken directly from the publicity for this tourist attraction. For readers who would like to see additional images of this world wonder, The Friends of the High Line, have posted hundreds of © photos of the project on their website at: - http://www.thehighline.org/galleries/images

Readers can also learn more about an online Google virtual tour of the High Line by linking to: -  www.thehighline.org/blog/2011/11/02/take-a-stroll-on-the-high-line-with-google-street-view-0

                                            

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Reader Comments (3)

I've been to the high line park and enjoyed this really awesome use of city space and leftovers of industry. Thanks for the pre-park shots with the wildflowers and barren spaces as well. It's amazing to see how far it's come along... and to see how many people pack themselves into the space and enjoy it now - versus the dead space before.

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRaffi / Gardenology.org

A wonderful article, Allan. I have had the High Line high on my list for gardens to visit for some time.

I didn't know about the contribution of Diane von Furstenburg -- whom I actually met in another life when she was still travelling to promote her dress designs. Kudos to her and the other contributors.

I've heard one suggestion that we transform Toronto's Gardiner Expressway into a park-topped covered artery. It doesn't sound all that wild to me – if we take the High Line as a model.

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen at Toronto Gardens

Great post...I'm totally obsessed with Oudolf...and the High Line is one of those amazing "perfect storm" occurences that happen so infrequently to create something wonderfully unique and beautiful...and the fact that it is a public garden makes it even better. I do hope I can visit soon!

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott Weber

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