The High Line has been open for nearly a year. After observing the plantings over the past 12 months, we were able to assess where improvements could be made, and one of these spaces is a small bed on the east side of the High Line at 14th Street . Previously a quiet gathering of herbaceous perennials, the bed did not stand up to the traffic patterns there, so we decided to add plants of greater stature.
We chose to anchor the bed with five 'Michael Lindsey' Carolina allspice plants (Calycanthus floridus 'Michael Lindsey'), a shrub species native to the southeastern part of the United States. Michael Lindsey is a cultivated variety that is typical of the best species example — it has deep burgundy flowers from spring into early summer that offer a sweet, fruity fragrance that is hard to pin down (some people say strawberries; others pineapple). In autumn, its glossy green leaves turn a brilliant yellow, and the flowers will give way to gourd-like seed pods filled with chestnut-brown seeds.
We surrounded the shrubs with an alternating carpet of 'Blue Ice' bluestar (Amsonia 'Blue Ice'), hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra), and Indian physic (Porteranthus stipulatus) — all plants that echo those in the nearby beds. We also planted small groups of Himalayan sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana v. humilis), a small, mounding evergreen shrub with little fragrant white flowers.
The High Line's landscape is a living thing that will constantly evolve, and this is just one example of a number of refinements to come. Many visitors stopped to chat with the horticulture staff as the plants were installed, eager to learn about the new things coming to the High Line. Revamping areas like this offers the opportunity to introduce High Line visitors to plants they might not already know — something which is in line with the overall approach to plant selection for the park. Keep an eye out for more soon.