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Featured Plant: Sea Lavender

By High Line Gardens | July 1, 2019

A sea lavender plant with tiny light blue flowers

As you make your way through the different sections of the High Line, notice our plantings beds are arranged in sweeps of colors and contrasts showing the potential of the visual aspect of the matrix pattern that was the vision of planting designer Piet Oudolf. Limonium platyphyllum—commonly known as sea lavendermakes for a great addition and candidate for our planting beds by creating a soft haze that allows for other plants and flowers to blend and blur together, creating excellent contrast.

What’s in a name?

Sea lavender’s common name derives from the plant’s ability to thrive in coastal conditions and for its airy cluster of tiny, papery, lavender-blue flowers. Despite its common name, it is not, however, related to lavender species, but instead belongs to the Plumbaginaceae, or leadwort, family. The Plumbaginaceae comprise mostly herbs and small shrubby plants. The leaves of many of these species cluster at the base of the plant, and the leaves have chalk-glands. The glands allow members of the family to live in salty soils where most other species of plants cannot survive. The chalk-glands excrete calcareous salts dissolved in the water of the plant’s tissues. This excretion moves the salts out of the plant where they may crystallize or be washed away.

Where is it from?

Sea lavender is a clump-forming perennial native to southeastern and central Europe. At its base, a rosette of six- to ten-inch elliptical, dark green, leathery leaves lay nearly flat against the ground. In midsummer the wiry, branch-like stems create a 24-inch-high bonsai-esque mass composed of hundreds of tiny lavender-colored flowers. The pink or blue flowers have five petals, five stamens, and five sepals that may be colorful and showy, but are often thin and papery. This floral shape and the blue color are typical characteristics of flowers that are attractive to butterflies. However, several other pollinators also love this group of plants.

How does it grow?

After enjoying several weeks of the peak bloom period, the true flowers dry out and gradually fall, leaving behind the branch-like structure that gives it the name “everlasting flower.” Limonium platyphyllum offers a multi-seasonal spectrum of interest to enjoy in a home garden or on the High Line. In your home garden this makes it a great candidate for use as a cut flower. It can also be used for drying and it’s best to harvest for such use just before its tiny flower buds fully open.

Sea lavender is a relatively easy perennial to cultivate, with few cultural needs. Its hardy nature is a suitable choice for gravel plantings , especially in dry, hot, windy coastal gardens. Since the High Line is elevated and uses a gravel “mulch” layer, we do face and share some of the same unique environmental challenges, thus making it one of the garden’s most resilient and reliable plants.

So the next time you are walking through the High Line, take a minute to slow down, appreciate and take a closer look at the small details that make sea lavender a big hit.

Where can you see it?

You can find the sea lavender, Limonium platyphyllum, between West 27th and West 30th streets.

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 500 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. Every week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

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.

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TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

High Line Gardens are supported by Greenacre Foundation.

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