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.
When a plant has officinalis in its name, it’s a sure bet that at one time it was grown for medicinal uses in the physic gardens and apothecaries of old. Stachys officinalis, also known as hedgenettle or betony, is no exception. Stachys was once purported to prevent everything from bad dreams, sweating, and drunkenness to the evil effects of witchcraft, and was believed to be an effective treatment for snakebites and gout. Even many modern day herbalists use Stachys in treatments for anxiety, high blood pressure, and migraine headaches. No wonder it was once common to compliment someone by saying they possessed “as many virtues as betony."
Stachys officinalis is a native of European meadows and open woodlands, and grows both in the wild and in cultivation in the Netherlands, home of High Line planting designer Piet Oudolf. The cultivar ‘Hummelo’ was introduced into the nursery trade by Piet and named for his hometown, Hummelo. It’s another sure bet that when a plantsman names a cultivar for his hometown (or wife, or husband, for that matter), it’s a very special plant indeed. Piet selected Hummelo hedgenettle from among many varieties of the species for its neat, compact habit and bold magenta flowers. Over the years at the High Line, the seedlings of this plant have reverted and are now expressing genetic qualities found in the original species. Beautiful variations in color, from pale pink to bright violet, have appeared among the High Line’s Hummelo hedgenettle. Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ is a lovely reminder of what is unique and special in Piet Oudolf's designs and plant choices. His gardens embrace the beauty in change and diversity – one could even say they possess as many virtues as betony.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ can be found on the High Line in the Gansevoort Woodlands between Gansevoort and Little West 12th Streets and on the Diller – von Furstenberg Sundeck between 14th and 15th 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 Friends of the High Line today !