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Christian Barclay
Gardener John GundersonGardener John Gunderson has been with Friends of the High Line since 2011. Photo by Friends of the High Line

While the High Line is meant to look like a wild landscape, it requires an extraordinary amount of work to maintain the plant life. The horticulture team is responsible for maintaining the park’s more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees. In our first Staff Spotlight, we’re focusing on John Gunderson, a gardener who’s been with Friends of the High Line for three years.

Andi Pettis
Photo by Beverly IsraelyThe wild legacy of the High Line's landscape is on full display in the summer, when the planting beds are a frenzy of green . Photo by Beverly Israely

The High Line was made by nature when the trains stopped running, and designer Piet Oudolf and the landscape architects of James Corner Field Operations paid tribute to that self-seeded landscape in one of their original design tenets for the High Line: keep it wild.

The plantings on the High Line are meant to change. They mimic the dynamics of a wild landscape. Plants out-compete one another, spread or diminish in number. They drift in the environment to where they can best fill their niches, and their individual seasonal cycles become part of a whole picture. Over the last five years, the work of the High Line gardeners has been to facilitate and enhance the natural processes of growth, change, and movement in the landscape, and at the same time maintain the integrity of the original design by Oudolf and James Corner Field Operations.

Erika Harvey
Photo by Liz LigonPhoto by Liz Ligon

During this time of year, as plants almost rush to spring forth from the soil, the High Line's gardeners are working hard to keep the planting beds in tip-top shape.

Throughout the season, our gardeners are weeding, introducing new plants, pruning, adding beneficial insects, watering, and doing so much more. If it weren't for their steadfast attention to detail and care for the gardens, the High Line wouldn't be as beautiful. We'd like to take this opportunity to recognize them for the work that they do keep the High Line an amazing place to visit. Thank you!

Jennette Mullaney
Photo by Timothy Schenck"Head to the ground" is a compliment in gardening, indicating a serious commitment to work. Maeve demonstrates the pose in this candid shot as she tends to the 23rd Street Lawn. Photo by Timothy Schenck

This week we say farewell to Senior Gardener Maeve Turner. After nearly five years at Friends of the High Line, Maeve is leaving our organization to become the Curator of the Herb Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. She describes the new role as her "other dream job," and we're thrilled that she's moving on to such an incredible position.

But we're so sad to see her go. Maeve began working at the High Line in June of 2009, just one week after the park first opened to the public, and her footprint on our gardens is indelible. Although it would be impossible to sum up Maeve's time here in one mere blog post – not to mention her achievements – we've shared a few highlights and cherished memories below.

Erika Harvey
Northern Spur PreserveHigh Line Gardeners working to apply beneficial nematodes on the Northern Spur Preserve earlier this season. Photo by Timothy Schenck

To the untrained – a category most of us citygoers fall into – gardens look pretty inert. However, beyond the beautiful blooms and verdant leaves of your common garden, a whole ecosystem of life is orbiting around the plants.

A sparrow here, and a mockingbird there. Then there are the large beneficial bugs: worms aerating the soil, and spiders, lady beetles, and praying mantises munching on some of plants’ worst pests. Soil itself is packed with minerals, organic matter, and very importantly, a whole host of tiny and even microscopic organisms. A teaspoon of soil may contain up to a billion bacteria, many of which are beneficial to the garden ecosystem. All these critters together help support healthy soil and healthy plants, making plants more resistent to diseases and pests.

Learn more about how High Line Gardeners keep the park healthy after the jump.

Kate Lindquist

With 100,000 plants to tend over one mile of parkland, and more than four million people stroll through the park, our gardeners worked hard to keep the High Line’s landscape thriving this year.

Join us after the jump to take a look back at four seasons of horticulture highlights at the High Line.

Erika Harvey
High Line Gardener Kaspar Wittlinger leads a tool tune-up session for High Line Gardeners and High Line Volunteers. Here he shows the group the proper technique for sharpening a pair of pruning shears.

At this time of year, we get this question all the time: “What do the gardeners do in the winter?”

There is noticeably less activity in the planting beds on the High Line in the winter, but our gardeners are just as busy. They take advantage of the lull in the growing season to plan and prepare for the year to come, and they are also called into action to help ensure the park is safe for the public after snow and ice storms. Here’s a little insight into what the High Line Gardeners are up to in the colder months of the year.

Erika Harvey

Grass clippings, tree trimmings, banana peels, and coffee grounds might sound like things you’d throw in the trash, but here at the High Line, these are all raw ingredients for “black gold,” better known as compost.

Auzelle Epeneter
pipeJohnny Linville at work on the High Line. Photo by David Kimelman. See more of the gardeners in action in David's album on Flickr.

Johnny Linville, one of the High Line's five full-time gardeners (and frequent equipment model) recently told me about his transition from traditional office job to the world of professional gardening. Up until December of 2007, Johnny helped run a branch of a private company that focused on literacy remediation. He loved his job, but was more passionate about gardening, a hobby he had cultivated nearly all his life, from helping to coordinate a community garden to participating in his native Santa Barbara's Bonsai Club. So, one day during the middle of winter, Johnny took a leap of faith and resigned from his job. He obtained an internship with the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and was able to gain the technical groundwork to begin his new career.

maeveMaeve Turner using the Dosatron (affectionately named "Dosie"
by the Horticulture staff) to apply compost tea to specific areas of the High Line.

Maeve, one of our five full-time gardeners, has been on staff since the High Line's opening this past June.  Originally from England, Maeve grew up in Westfield, New Jersey, and first discovered her love for gardening while working at Morning Glory Farm on Martha's Vineyard, where she helped out with everything from seeding to planting to weeding.  After Morning Glory, Maeve completed an internship at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (which she says was "awesome"), then worked for a private gardening company.  Each job, she says, was a unique experience, and affirmed that gardening is the work environment she enjoys most.

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