If you live near the High Line—or in much of the eastern half of the United States—this may have been the first week that actually felt like winter. Temperatures in New York throughout the fall and early winter were abnormally high. And on Christmas Eve, when the mercury hit a record-breaking 72 degrees in New York, many of our visitors donned t-shirts and shorts to go along with their cozy Santa hats.
A handful of the High Line's 600 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees were similarly confused by the strange temperatures. Whether their blooms remained long past their expected date or blossomed earlier than usual, the last week of December and the first few days of January provided High Line visitors with a few surprising sights. Here are some examples our gardeners pointed out:
The Echinacea purpurea 'Vintage Wine' coneflower generally blooms throughout the summer, usually from May – October. Several of the High Line's vibrant-colored coneflowers, found between Gansevoort Street and West 17th Street, stayed in bloom through the holidays.
The Parthenium integrifolium, spotted on the High Line from West 16th through West 20th streets, blooms in late summer. In this photo, taken just before the New Year, you can see the still-blooming flower heads next to their stalks.
The fragrant Mortimer Sackler rose in the Chelsea Thicket also remained blooming through December.
A gardener favorite, the eye-popping Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' is particularly attractive on gloomier days, when the pink pops against the city's gray skies. It's rare for the tree to flower so early in the season.
Last year, the High Line's gardeners planted thousands of bulbs, which are hearty, low-maintenance additions to any garden and pop up early in the year. These bulbs began to sprout before the end of last year.
Andi Pettis, the High Line's director of horticulture, stressed that these plants are all resilient, and that weather anomalies are actually more frequent than most people realize—especially on the High Line. "Thirty feet above the city streets, the soil freezes faster than in most places in the city, the wind blows harder, and the exposure to cold or heat or sun is always harsher on the High Line," she said. "Unless we see a continued pattern of unseasonably warm weather with intermittent cold snaps, the gardens should be in good shape for a lovely display of blooms in the spring."
And there's still something Pettis is looking forward to this season: the winter gardens under the first, fresh snowfall.
Photo credits: Friends of the High Line