Photo of the Week: Northern Spur Preserve

Photo by Mike TschappatThis GIF shows the Northern Spur Preserve, on the High Line at West 16th Street, at three different times during the late winter and early spring seasons. Photos by Melissa Mansur

It’s difficult to believe that Spring Cutback is nearly finished! Later this week High Line Gardeners and volunteers will wrap this nearly four-week endeavor.

The first spring bulbs and green shoots are tentatively breaking the soil and soaking up every available drop of sunshine. As the cold weather starts to subside – and we promise it will – the High Line’s landscape will transform into full-blown spring glory.

This GIF, comprised of photos by High Line Photographer Melissa Mansur, allows us to look into the increasingly green future of the Northern Spur Preserve. This small offshoot, or “spur,” on the High Line once connected the active freight railway with the Merchants Refrigerating Company, a massive cold storage facility. Now, like the rest of the High Line, the Northern Spur Preserve is home to a wide variety of plants. The varieties chosen for this section of the park are especially meant to evoke the wild landscape that took over the High Line after the trains stopped running. You’ll find a variety of asters, sedges, catmint, and phlox.

In the late winter photo, the dried grassy stalks of Pennsylvania sedge, Carex pennsylvanica, have not yet been trimmed back. The green buckets captured in this shot show that High Line Gardeners were just moments away from tackling this area. Other visible plants include the green and mauve leafy plants, Dale's Strain American alumroot, Heuchera americana ‘Dale's Strain,’ and Autumn Bride hairy alumroot, Heuchera villosa ’Autumn Bride.’ At the back of the spur are willow-leaved spice bushes, Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, guarding the bricked up wall that once allowed trains to enter the neighboring building.

As Spring Cutback passes through and temperatures begin to warm, the first spring bulbs make their seasonal debut. Look closely and you’ll see pops of blue-tinted glory-of-the-snow, Scilla sardensis, and pearly white squill, Scilla mischtschenkoana. The act of trimming back dried grasses is so important for making room for these spring bulbs to thrive.

In the late spring photo, the Northern Spur Preserve is thick with new foliage. Grasses like northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, and flowers like shooting star, Dodecatheon meadia, and wild geranium, Geranium maculatum have taken over.

No matter what the season, the Northern Spur Preserve is a great place to observe the transition of seasons and appreciate planting designer Piet Oudolf’s four-season garden. Stop by today to see more of the spur’s first spring bulbs.

Learn more about what’s in bloom this month.

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