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. Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in Pink' is having a particularly spectacular moment now at the High Line. At around 18 inches tall, its soft, candy-pink panicles echo the form and texture of the Aruncus 'Horatio' found in the Washington Grasslands; it is, in fact, commonly referred to as false goat's beard because of its resemblance to Aruncus. Native to mountainous areas of Asia and North America, Chinese astilbe spreads by rhizome and is a member of the Saxifragaceae family. Though astilbe is widely loved for its success in shady areas, the 'Visions in Pink' cultivar is drought-tolerant and has proven to flourish in the High Line's full sun exposure. In combination with tangerine-colored butterfly weed and fuschia Red Cauli sedum, as you'll find it at the High Line, Astilbe becomes part of a beautiful, impressionistic palette with great texture and varied form.
Chinese astilbe flowers abundantly in mid-to-late summer and provides great cutting flower opportunities; after its blooms have faded, its deep green, glossy foliage adds lacy texture into the fall. Many gardeners love its coppery seed heads, which provide great shape in a snowy landscape, as much as the flowers, and refrain from cutting the plants back until spring. Chinese astilbe is an enthusiastic grower and can be shaped aggressively without fear of harming the plant; its striking, upright habit can weave into softer grasses with great effect, but will also overwhelm surrounding growth if not kept in check.
PLANTING TIP: Follow a regular watering schedule while the plant establishes to ensure sturdy root structure. Divide clumps every 2-3 years in early spring.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT: Washington Grasslands and Woodland Edge, Northern Spur Preserve, Chelsea Grasslands
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!