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 one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.
Achillea millefolium 'Terracotta' is a stunning yarrow cultivar with blooms ranging from dark orange to pale yellow, set against the fine, silvery green foliage that so often signals "drought-tolerant." Common in Mediterranean landscapes and across the United States, yarrow is as practical and rewarding to grow as it is rich in cultural history. Yarrow exemplifies the Asteraceae family with its abundance of tiny, composite flowers that are as lovely up close as they are seen from a distance – swaying, cloud-like corymbs, growing up to three feet tall.
With naturally aromatic foliage and flowers and a robust growth habit, yarrow makes a beautiful filler for herb gardens. It fits in nicely among grasses and shrubs and contributes a bounty of cut flowers that maintain their color when dried. Perfect for a xeriscaped space, it adapts well to well-drained, rocky soil. Once deep roots are established early on via deep, consistent watering, they need very little care and return year after year. Yarrow resists deer, but draws pollinators, making it an excellent companion planting.
Achillea takes its name from lore that Achilles, the Greek general, used it on the battlefield as a wound poultice. Native Americans tribes used yarrow in fever-soothing teas and to treat headaches and burns. Beer brewers used yarrow as a bittering agent before the introduction of hops. Incidentally, it also contains a small amount of 'thujone,' which is the same chemical that gives absinthe its psychedelic effects. Lewis and Clark collected achillea millefolium var. lanulosa, which has white flowers, while camped in Idaho. To this day, you can see yarrow flower in May, the same month the explorers collected it in 1806.
Yarrow spreads by rhizome and so does not set seed. It can be propagated by dividing the root ball, which should be done every 2-3 years to maintain plant vitality. If soil is too rich, yarrow stems may flop over; sand can be mixed into the soil or stems can be cut back in late spring before flowering to reduce overall height and maintain good posture.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Pershing Square Beams, on 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues
Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects – become a member of the High Line today!