Book Reviews, Gardens, Public Realm

Book Review: Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke

August 5, 2017

One of the most innovative urban reclamation projects in history, New York City’s High Line redefines the role horticulture and ecology play in reshaping the modern landscape. Key to the project’s success is its horticultural diversity, with more than 400 species of plants deftly integrated into a series of outdoor spaces. A botanic garden that celebrates the ephemerality of the natural world within a public setting, the High Line is a unique achievement.

Gansevoort Woodland by Rick Darke from Gardens of the High Line © 2017. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes explores the planting designs, context, evolution and care of the High Line’s revolutionary landscape through a descriptive tour of its individual garden sections. It is organized in a linear fashion and travels from South to North, beginning at Ganesvoort Woodland and concluding with one of the simplest garden spaces, the Wildflower Field and Radial Plantings.

Piet Oudolf, Lorraine Ferguson and Rick Darke.

A collaboration of Dutch landscape designer, Piet Oudolf, landscape designer and photographer Rick Darke and book designer Lorraine Ferguson, Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes, is both a guide and a reverie that is factual yet phantasmagorical. Its text and images flow seamlessly from page to page and season to season, inviting the reader to gaze through the windows of the book.

An introduction by Robert Hammond, one of the High Line’s founders, provides context for the project. A preliminary chapter explores the contradictions inherent in a neighborhood project that has become a destination for the global community and is a cultivated, naturalistic landscape inspired by an industrial wilderness.

Northern Spur by Rick Darke from Gardens of the High Line© Copyright 2017 published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Extensive full-color photographs depict the gardens in every season and at every conceivable angle and time of day, presenting an opportunity for the reader to practice the art of observation, which the High Line’s rich and dynamic landscape affords. Each photograph is subtitled and identifies the plant species depicted. While fully absorbing, the photographs (and text) would be enhanced by a plant list and/or planting plans to provide the reader with a complete understanding of the landscape’s design.

Transition Garden by Rick Darke from Gardens of the High Line © 2017 published by Timber Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

The High Line has been written about extensively, including in the first book I reviewed for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky by co-founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond, published in 2011. Now six years later one can view the project’s horticultural progress, which has been described as “a continual experiment dedicated to determining the most beautiful and appropriate plants and plant associations for each of the varied garden habitats,” and measure its success.

Northern Spur by Rick Darke from Gardens of the High Line © 2017. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

And what a success it has been. The High Line has become one of New York City’s most visited tourist destinations, an homage to the power of reinvention and rediscovery. By embracing the inevitability of change while building upon the past, its design has redefined the character of the modern garden. Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes provides a welcome opportunity to explore the High Line from afar and marvel at its ingenuity and beauty.

Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes
by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke
Timber Press, 2017

For additional information about the High Line visit the Friends of the High Line.

This review appeared in Leaflet A Massachusetts Horticultural Society Publication, August, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

 

 

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1 Comment

  • Reply commonweeder August 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    The High Line is a truly amazing garden. You don’t need to be a gardener to appreciate the variety of beautiful plantings, or understand the philosophy of its beginnings to appreciate the magnificence of this public garden floating above one of the greatest cities in the world. The photographs are a true work of art, a virtual stroll the whole length of the garden.

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