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.
Calamagrostis brachytricha has had a strong presence on the High Line all year, but since early September it's commanded more attention with the appearance of its pink-tinged, feathery flowerheads, reaching up to four feet in height and glowing beautifully when backlit by late afternoon light. In full sun exposure, as it enjoys in our garden, Calamagrostis grows upright, with glossy, quarter-inch-wide leaves forming masses as wide as they are tall. A native to Asia and Europe, Calamagrostis grows comfortably alongside Achillea filipendulina, or fernleaf yarrow – another Asian native that has naturalized to North America – in the High Line's Meadow Walk.
Calamagrostis takes its name from the Greek kalamos, meaning "reed," and agros, meaning "field," and, accordingly, agrostis, meaning "grass." Growing in climates as diverse as India and Siberia, it is found most often in open woods and in woodland borders, and prefers damp soil in either part-shade or full-sun exposures. In shade, this grass will take on a more relaxed look, with bowing flowerheads and a looser mound shape. It makes a beautiful border, functioning equally as a specimen plant and an effective filler, but also as a mass planting in naturalistic or meadow gardens. Its tolerance for wet soil means that it will flourish in low spots and along bodies of water, as well. In fall, the leaves fade to a soft tan, and seed plumes mature to light tan as they ripen, providing a beautiful point of winter interest. It becomes clear from September onwards why this variety is also known as Foxtail grass.
Seeds aggressively in spring and will need some attention to prevent overtake of surrounding species. Cut back to ground in early spring to maintain winter interest but support growth of new shoots.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Sundeck and Water Feature
23rd St Lawn & Seating Steps
Wildflower Field & Radial Plantings
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!