The High Line's landscape was created in partnership with Netherlands-based planting designer Piet Oudolf. For inspiration, Oudolf looked to the existing landscape that grew on the High Line after the trains stopped running. The plant selection favors native, drought-tolerant, and low-maintenance species, cutting down on the resources that go into the landscape.
Varied conditions of light, shade, exposure, wind, and soil depth on the High Line in its out-of-use state led to an incredibly complex variety of growing conditions, or "microclimates." The original, self-seeded landscape reflected this variation – where the High Line was narrow and sheltered by adjacent buildings, water was retained, soil was deeper, and vegetation was thicker, including several groves of tall shrubs and trees. Where the High Line was exposed to winds off the Hudson, the landscape was dominated by tough, drought-resistant grasses and wildflowers.
The current park landscape reflects the original microclimates of the High Line. By basing the planting design on naturally created plant communities, we create a well-adapted, site-specific landscape, cutting down on water and other resources needed to maintain it.
Whenever possible, we source materials from within a 100-mile radius. Almost half of the High Line's plants are native species, and many were produced by local growers. Locally grown plants are better adapted to grow successfully in our climate, reducing the amount of plant failure and replacement costs. The High Line's ecosystem provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife species, including native pollinators.
Equally important to the High Line's design is the way in which it is maintained and operated on an ongoing basis. In all of our operations, we strive towards sustainability with the same level of care that went into the park's design.
The High Line's green roof system with drip irrigation is designed to allow the planting beds to retain as much water as possible; because many of our plants are drought-tolerant, they need little supplemental watering.
When supplemental watering is needed, hand watering is used so as to tailor the amount of water to the needs of individual species and weather conditions, and to conserve water.
The High Line has on-site composting facilities that enable us to process much of our garden waste into compost. Our composting program helps to reduce the amount of compostable material entering the waste stream and also recycles valuable nutrients back into the High Line gardens soil without the need to add commercial fertilizer. Composting garden waste at the High Line also reduces the need to have waste material carted off-site, thereby reducing our carbon footprint.
Friends of the High Line is committed to avoiding the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers whenever possible. We reduce the need for such products by following sound horticultural practices and selecting well-adapted plants to grow on the High Line. We have established an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to sustainably address any issues dealing with potential pests and diseases. Learn more about IPM on our blog. In addition, the compost produced on-site provides the nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth – and healthy plants are more resistant to pests and diseases than plants that are ill-adapted or stressed.
We promote environmentally sound purchasing through the use of Green Seal-certified cleaning solutions and post-consumer paper products for our recurring maintenance needs.
The elevated, narrow structure of the High Line creates unique conditions that can make snow removal challenging. At 30 feet above the street, the park is affected by high winds and quickly freezes when temperatures fall. Following a storm, we create a safe walking path by removing snow with power equipment – such as snow throwers and power brooms – along with hand removal. As needed, we apply an eco-friendly ice melting product that is safe for plants and environment. In order to keep visitors safe, we may need to close the park as we clear ice from the park's pathways.