Exploring the High Line

High above New York’s bustling streets there is a green surprise in wait. A garden in the sky. DSC_0198.jpg

This is The High Line, an elevated, linear park that was opened in 2009 on a disused freight rail track that had closed in the 1980’s.

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Archive photos before work began.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running.  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. 043838e1a896aff62f093901e4cf271f.jpg

Piet Oudolf designed the planting.

DSC_0171.jpgA walk along the High Line gives spectacular views of the Hudson River14435.jpgAnd down onto the streets of New YorkDSC_0184.jpg

Running through various ‘habitats’ of prairie


and woodlandDSC_0160.jpgDSC_0162.jpgPlaces to soak up the sun or sit in the shade.DSC_0153 (2).jpgAnd glimpse some of New York’s iconic buildings.DSC_0174.jpgDSC_0169.jpgGrabbed a few ideas such as Corten steel for raised bedsDSC_0163 (3).jpgAnd cloud-pruning smoke bush Cotinus ‘Grace’ to prevent it swamping the underplanting


But sadly all good things must come to an end….and it did!DSC_0164.jpg

Looking very strange; a piece of woodland looming over the busy New York streets! I loved the planting and the atmosphere it created, and admired all the work put in by the energetic and passionate ‘Friends of the High Line’.

If you are in New York please try to visit. Ninety-eight percent of the High Line’s operating budget is covered by voluntary contributions.



Oudolf Field, Hauser and Wirth, Somerset

How exciting to hear that there was a major new contemporary garden designed by Piet Oudolf opening in Somerset in September 2014 around the Hauser and Wirth Gallery.      www.hauserwirthsomerset.com/garden  Luckily, I had plans to attend a couple of workshops run by Thornhayes Nursery in Devon at the end of September so could visit on my way down there, shortly after it had opened.DSC_0003

Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a pioneering world-class gallery and multi-purpose arts centre, which acts as a destination for experiencing art, architecture and the Somerset landscape through new and innovative exhibitions of contemporary art. (So say H & W!) And I have to say it is a remarkable place and well worth a visit. Beautiful grade II listed farm buildings which had fallen into disrepair have been converted into various stylish galleries and public spaces, bar and restaurant and surrounded by gardens designed by Piet Oudolf. I loved the whole concept, which was that the buildings, garden and exhibition spaces expressed the spirit of the old farm. Agricultural drinking troughs were used as containers for perennials around the restaurant and metal sheep feeding troughs found new life as a sink in the ladies loo!DSC_0037

Oudolf’s Field lies at the back of the complex and blends with the surrounding Somerset countryside beautifully. It covers 1.5 acres and is billed as a perennial meadow.

DSC_0005As you can see when I first emerged from the gallery this is the effect given by the dense planting. Once I began to explore, however, I discovered that the planting is divided into interlocking borders with gravel paths between. I felt as though I was disappearing into the tall, airy planting; a lovely feeling of seclusion. A shallow pond references the dew ponds that would probably have been created to water the livestock on the farm in the past.DSC_0009There are around 26,000 herbaceous perennials of over 100 varieties and my camera was snapping away capturing the best  of Pete’s tasty and tasteful plant combinations. DSC_0012 DSC_0023 DSC_0046A fascinating exhibition of Piet Oudolf’s planting plans was running in one of the galleries. I think all garden designers love to see how other designers present their plans particularly for gardens that they have seen,DSC_0003 so that was a real opportunity to gain insight into how Piet puts his schemes together. I am glad to see he is a pen, paper and drawing board man!

I was lucky enough to encounter the Head Gardener whilst I was strolling around and had a chat about what it is like to look after a garden like this. Within 2 or 3 years he will be digging up, dividing and replanting three quarters of the perennials. They were planted densely for instant effect so will soon become congested and need thinning out. That will be quite a task!DSC_0015 DSC_0016 DSC_0017Within the gallery is a more intimate cloister garden planted with Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’, Molinia ‘Moorhexe’ and Seslaria autumnalis woven through with Baptisia and Astrantia ‘Venice’DSC_0031 DSC_0032

It is free to visit the gallery and garden which is open again from the 12th of January 2015. I plan to follow it through the year to see how the planting looks in each season. Hundreds of bulbs were going in for spring, and if you look at photos on the website now you will see how well the borders look in winter. This garden is a real inspiration for anyone who enjoys contemporary and informal planting.

Oh, I do like to be in a seaside garden!

I was born and grew up beside the sea in East Yorkshire. Although I have washed up here in Bedfordshire about as far away from the sea as I could be, I have a strong desire to return to live beside the sea eventually.

Creating a garden beside the sea is also a long held dream though not the easiest of design projects to undertake. Strong, salt-laden winds can burn tender foliage. Planting a windbreak and choosing the right plants within its shelter will be very important factors in the design of a seaside garden. Last summer I visited a stunning contemporary garden right on the estuary of the river Exe which has turned this challenge into a work of art. It is called The lookout and is the work of Jackie Michelmore and can be visited in June each year as part of the National Garden Scheme www.ngs.org 

If you are looking for inspiration then this garden has it in bucket and spadefuls!DSC_0044DSC_0048The style is very informal with beach combing finds mixed in amongst naturalistic borders. shelter was created by planting hundreds of native trees and shrubs.DSC_0036

DSC_0060The site used to be a 1920’s mussel purifying station and the walls have been used to create a beautiful mediterranean-style courtyard around the swimming pool with an outdoor kitchen for summer BBQ’s. The planting palette is textural rather then bright with lots of grasses and leaves with interesting shapes and textures. This means that the stunning position overlooking the estuary is enhanced by the garden rather than the planting serving as a distraction.

DSC_0050There is a beautiful wildflower meadow too with winding paths leading to a far-reaching view down the estuary to the sea.DSC_0053I now have a base in East Devon myself and make regular visits, developing the west country branch of Outerspaces Garden Design.

Curving terraces

Steady progress is being made on the latest of our designs to be built. This is a large country house in a north Bedfordshire village. the ground slopes steeply up and away beside and behind the house and our clients found the views of the grass banks uninspiring. They were also hard to mow and maintain.

We designed sweeping curved terraces retained by stone-faced walls and sleepers. Some terraces will be planted and some will be turfed.

DSC_0112 DSC_0110The construction has been a complex business, made more difficult by the seemingly endless rain last year! A large pond has been dug within the final sweeping curve of the retaining wall. the edges will be planted informally and a large curved deck will appear to hover over the water.

DSC_0114Last November we were at last able to plant out the first area to be completed. This is a steep bank that sits above the stone terraces and was formally an area of weedy turf. We have used a limited palette of perennials which will sweep across the slope in large swathes. This kind of approach is needed for impact when large areas of border are involved.

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Here we are on planting day!

We are hoping that the build will complete in spring and I will post updates as we progress.