Plant of the Week: Transparent Tall Purple Moor Grass

The negative spaces between the thin and airy stems of this grass create a curtain-like effect, providing a mysterious effect.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

After visiting the High Line, many are left in awe by the park's ability to feel so secluded, private, and wild, despite being in the heart of the busy city. And, in a large part, we have careful planting design to thank for this. Plants like transparent tall purple moor grass, Molinia Caerulea 'Transparent,” create a particularly removed and lush environment through their tall stature, numerous stems, and the negative space these elements yield.

When selecting plant varieties for the High Line, planting designer Piet Oudolf utilized a form of composition that he refers to as "screens and curtains." This approach to planting revolves around the idea of using a plant as a semi-transparent structure by playing with the open spaces between a plant's stems and flowers. Using the negative space in this way yields a curtain-like effect, giving way to "an atmosphere of mystery and romance," according to Oudolf. On the High Line, the tall purple moor grass—with its thin, reaching stems—creates this negative space and allows for a private experience and a departure from the hustle and bustle of New York City.

This bunchgrass is one of the taller varieties of Molinia and can grow to be several feet tall. Thin green stems grow in bunches and give way to arching leaves and delicate, spiky flowers, which appear green in the summer months and fade to a purplish-brown. The airy grass stems remain in the winter, providing a serene beauty to a snow-covered High Line.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Transparent tall purple moor grass can be found on the High Line at West 16th Street, the southern border of the 10th Avenue Square.

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