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.
Aruncus 'Horatio', a cultivar of Goat's beard, was the brainchild of the famous German nurseryman Ernst Pagels. He aimed to combine the qualities of the glossy, fine foliage of the low-growing Aruncus aethusifolius with those of the taller and more robust Aruncus dioicus. Thanks to this experiment, we have a plant that combines the delicacy of astilbe with the vigor and size of a larger shrub. Keep an eye out this summer for its waist-height sprays of creamy-white flowers and glossy leaves.
When established, Aruncus 'Horatio' does quite well in drought conditions, but also excels in woodland settings with shade and moist soil. This makes it an ideal woodland plant, with its highly floriferous bronze stems supporting an almost cloud-like display of white blooms that stand out visually in shady settings. In this cultivar, flowers fade gradually with the season, creating an interesting two-tone effect by browning first at one end and extending to the other; in fall, foliage turns a rich red. The Aruncus 'Horatio' makes an attractive and low-maintenance alternative to a hydrangea. It also pairs well with astilbe, creating a nice textural complement, or with a chocolate-colored heuchera, as you'll see it on the High Line.
PLANTING TIP: Tricky to acquire in the nursery trade, the root ball of Aruncus 'Horatio' can be divided and spread in attractive mass plantings throughout your garden. 'Horatio' may be slow to start, and needs plenty of moisture during this early stage, but once established will withstand drought conditions and wet feet alike.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT: Washington Grasslands, between Little West 12th and 14th Streets
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!