NYC High Line: Splendors in the Grasses

 

 

The signature grass of the High Line, Purple Lovegrass:

 

eragrostis-spectabilis-640

 

 

Here's how to grow Purple Lovegrass:

 

Latin Name

Eragrostis spectabilis

Common Name

Purple Lovegrass

Family

Poaceae, the grass family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous ornamental grass.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 8

Habit

Spreading perennial grass with dense low leaves topped by an airy inflorescence.

Rate of Growth

Fast when happy.

Size in ten years

A patch one or two feet tall and twice that as wide when not in bloom, three feet tall and more than that wide when in bloom.

Texture

Low and miscellaneously grassy until high Summer, when the supremely airy, almost smoky pinkish inflorescences appear.  En masse, they seem like a wispy fairy-tale cloud—could a pink cloud be anything else?—that has stolen amid your gardens like a ground fog.  The texture is sui generis and thrilling.

Grown for

the pink-misty effect of the grass when it's in "bloom" with its inflorescences.

Flowering season

Late Summer: August to October.

Culture

Easy; this is a tough plant that you could just as well find growing along railroad tracks as in some of the most exciting and au courant gardens in the world. 

How to handle it

Full sun and a well-drained soil are essential.  Thrives even in lean sandy soil, and is quite drought-tolerant when established. 

 

As with almost all ornamental grasses, leave the stalks up in the Winter: the seeds are forage for birds, the plumes often have considerable interest, and the plant itself appreciates the leafy "self mulch" of the brown dry foliage of last season's growth.  In early Spring, before new growth starts, cut the entire colony down to a couple of inches tall.

 

The dense foliage itself isn't tall at all—a foot or so—so doesn't shade out the Summer-peaking perennials and shrubs you'd probably think to pair with it: daisies, hydrangeas, eryngiums, smoke bushes, butterfly bushes, and sumacs.  The tall and airy pink inflorescences are uniquely dramatic, especially en masse.  For me, this is a grass that, after many years of viewing Summer as the season to celebrate yellow, finally convinced me that pink in a Summer garden wasn't just the province of geraniums in pots at cheap Summer resorts.  That a pink-friendly Summer garden could be radical as well as ravishing. 

 

In my own heavy, rich, wet-in-Winter soil, I'm going to grow eragrostis in a raised bed made of a short section of really large drainage culvert set vertically in the ground.

Downsides

You can kill this plant with kindness.  Avoid too rich soil or too much water.  It can self-seed more than you'd like, although it's such an exciting filler in late Summer this could be as much a gift as a hassle.  Eventually the entire inflorescence breaks off and can blow around, spreading seeds all the while—hence another of the common names, Tumblegrass. 

Variants

None.

Availability

On-line and in local retailers

Propagation

Division in early Spring, as well as by seed.

Native habitat

The US Midwest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's how to get started on planning your trip to The High Line:

 

What’s The Idea?

The High Line is an abandoned elevated freight railroad in the far West of Manhattan that has been renovated and transformed into a multi-block promenade amid exciting meadow-like gardens.

Where Is It?

It currently runs from Washington Street & Gansevoort  (just below 13th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenues) North as far as 20th Street & 10th Avenue.  When the remaining two Northern stretches are completed, it will run all the way to 34th Street.

How do I get there?

Check out the High Line’s website, which is as carefully thought through, generously executed, and stylishly inviting as the High Line itself.  Here’s the link to the Information page, which includes all transportation modalities save helicopter pads and sky-diving.

It's two stories above street level.  How the hell to do I get up there?

There are currently four different entrances, as well as elevators at the 14th and 16th Street entrances.  An entrance is always only a block or two away.

 

And when I’m up there, on the High Line, then what?

You’ll find yourself suddenly amid one of the most exciting public spaces in the country.  Stroll down the broad central walkway; your feet will start moving all by themselves, so try to keep up.  Remarkably dense and eccentric plantings are, just by their mere existence this far off the ground, a pleasant shock.  Their year-round detail and flare ensure that you’ll be checking them out whenever your visit.  The views of Manhattan, as well as out to the Hudson, are showstopping.

Wow: exciting indeed.  I think I need a breather.

There is bounteous seating, from small benches to enormous lounges, to an amphitheater of stadium-sized benches suspended directly over Tenth Avenue that lets you watch the traffic shoot out from underneath you.  Who knew?

Who else is likely to be there?  Isn’t this an isolated neighborhood?

It was isolated, true, but now it’s the heart of a high-horsepower neighborhood.  Galleries, shops, restaurants, offices, and hotels are popping up all over in “celebritecture” buildings, both residential and commercial, as well as renovated period buildings from the area’s industrial past. (The High Line has helped motivate a billion or two in real estate development, which makes it a seriously cost-effective investment.)  With so much style now in the neighborhood, the folks on the High Line are sleek and savvy, too.  You’ll see people you’ve seen in People, models or people you’re sure should become models, pencil-thin staff on their lunch hour from the galleries, and the usual legions of design-conscious New Yorkers who think this is all normal, and how life should have been all along.

I’m getting hungry:

There’s a pushcart or two right on the High Line, as well as cafe chairs.  But try to build up a real appetite so you can lavish yourself on a visit to The Chelsea Market, a massive aggregation of food shops and restaurants in one of the former industrial buildings that the High Line serviced in its original industrial phase.  The Food Network’s offices are in the same building, so the Chelsea Market always has a baseline of knowledgeable and hungry folks.

Oops:  Gotta go:

There’s a rest room just for the High Line, in the new building, The Caledonia, built all along the East Side of the Line from 16th to 17th.  The entrance is closer to 16th Street.  It’s handicap accessible (like the entire High Line).

I’m hungry again!

Consider Del Posto, with fleets of servers and big-taste (and price) Italian food in the densely-upholstered two-story ambiance of (I think) a Chicago hotel that was formerly a Federal Reserve branch, that (what the hell) decided to put in a “Hello Dolly” center stairway so everyone can make a grand ascent to the mezzanine, and then (even better for the viewing and the being viewed) back down to the main floor.  Empty your wallet and get the truffled fettuccine, too.

 

Or just bring your lunch up to the High Line and brown-bag it.

Wow, has this been exciting!  I’m pooped, but blissfully so.

Make reservations at The Standard Hotel, which straddles the High Line. 

 

As its website says, “in the heart of the Meatpacking District,” and all possible puns and inferences of “straddle” and “meatpacking” are knowingly exploited.  When the hotel was just opened but not quite finished, they ran an ad showing a glistening mostly-nude female wearing just a tool belt, with the caption “We’ll put up with your banging if you’ll put up with ours.”  In no time the hotel became infamous for couples who liked to give the High Line visitors below a show.  Read about it here.

 

I confess that the rooms are, well, exciting indeed, and the views, in all senses, are, too.  Either The Standard hires extras from www.Eurotrash.com to populate its public spaces, or such people really do exist.  Wear black so you’ll fit in, practice your French, Japanese, and Brazilian-Portuguese, and join the spectacle.

What’s the best time of year to visit?

As long as you’re dressed warmly—see Words to the Wise below—the High Line is a destination in Fall and Winter just as much as Spring and Summer.  Depending on your mood, Winter visits can be even more satisfying because you’ll have the place more to yourself.  In the warm months, you’ll definitely be strolling with plenty of other in-the-know folks.

I’m two stories above-ground in a (formerly) desolate neighbor-hood.  Is it actually safe now?

The High Line has a large and reassuringly “present” contingent of staff—think Park Rangers out in Yellowstone—who are benignly strolling around.  And there’re plenty of gardeners tending all the plantings, too.  (They may look like meadows, but low-maintenance they ain’t.)  So things are under control.  Plus, visitors really do feel like they have ascended to a higher plane, literally, aesthetically, and morally.  There is a conspicuous sense of We Really ARE a Good-Karma Species After All, at least for an hour or two.  (In these wild times, who doesn’t doubt this daily?)  Join in the smiles and kind camaraderie.  You’ll be so welcome.

Words to the Wise:

The High Line is all about style.  And the space is so exciting and stimulating that you’ll want to do justice to it yourself.  So pay respect to great design when planning what to wear for your excursion.  You’re part of the show, too!  And remember: You’re two stories up, and only a block or two from the Hudson.  That welcome cooling breeze in Summer becomes the holy-crap-that-wind-is-strong blow in Winter.  It’s much (much) chillier than the street below, so be sure to wear that extra-warm scarf, gloves, and hat.

More!  More!  More!

Here’s a link from NY Mag, for a day-long Summer dose of High Line excitement.

I actually want to print some info out first:

The High Line is there for you paper-based folks, too.  Here’s a PDF.

How was your High Line visit?

Email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
 
 
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