The High Line: Heirloom Bulbs Flourish in New York’s Coolest Park

Built on an abandoned railway high over the streets of Manhattan, the High Line is one of the country’s coolest new parks and an inspiring example of the adaptive re-use of a historic resource.

Southern Grape Hyacinths
Grape hyacinths colonized the rail-bed long before it was
a park. Scenes like this inspired neighborhood activists to see
it as more than just a blighted relic. By Joel Sternfeld.

The railway was originally used to deliver meat, produce, and raw materials to warehouses and factories along the west side of lower Manhattan. Abandoned in the 1980s, it was slated for demolition until neighborhood activists, inspired by the way nature was reclaiming the rail-bed, convinced the city to recycle it into an aerial greenway. Since opening in 2009, the park has become wildly popular and sparked billions of dollars worth of re-development in the area.

As you might imagine, an elevated rail-bed in Manhattan isn’t the easiest place for plants to grow, but the High Line is richly planted with tough perennials, grasses, woody plants, and bulbs, many of which are natives or heirlooms. All are mulched with coarse, crushed bluestone that recalls the site’s original surfacing, and some are doing better in these challenging conditions than others. Grape hyacinths had naturalized themselves there long before work on the park began (see photo), and the day I visited I was happy to see that tiny, dark blue Turkish glory-of-the-snow were spreading eagerly.

Here’s a list of all of the High Line’s bulbs — including the eleven tough fall-planted heirlooms we offer:

Allium ‘Mount Everest’ — Mount Everest ornamental onion
Allium atropurpureum — purple-flowered onion
Allium carinatum ssp. pulchellum — ornamental onion
Allium christophii — star of Persia
Allium moly — golden garlic
Allium moly ‘Jeanine’ — Jeanine golden garlic
Allium nigrum — black garlic
Allium obliquum — twisted-leaf garlic
Allium oreophilum — pink lily leek
Allium siculum ssp. dioscoridis — Sicilian honey garlic
Allium sphaerocephalondrumstick allium/purple-headed garlic
Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’ — Blue Shades Grecian windflower
Anemone blanda ‘White Splendor’ — White Splendor Grecian windflower
Anemone nemorosa — wood anemone
Anemone x lipsiensis — windflower
Chinodoxa luciliae — Lucile’s glory-of-the-snow
Chionodoxa sardensisTurkish glory-of-the-snow
Crocus ancyrensis ‘Golden Bunches’ — Golden Bunches crocus
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Ard Schenk’ — Ard Schenk crocus
Crocus puichellus — autumn crocus
Crocus sieberi ssp. sublimis ‘Tricolor’ — Tricolor crocus
Crocus tommasinianuswoodland crocus/tommies
Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ — Ruby Giant crocus
Eranthis hyemaliswinter aconite
Eremurus himalaicus — foxtail lily
Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ — Pagoda dogtooth violet
Erythronium dens-canis ‘Purple King’ — Purple King dogtooth violet
Galanthus nivalistraditional snowdrop
Muscari armeniacum ‘Valerie Finnis’ — Valerie Finnis grape hyacinth
Muscari neglectumSouthern grape hyacinth
NarcissusHawera’ — Hawera miniature daffodil
Narcissus ‘Jenny’ — Jenny miniature daffodil
Narcissus ‘Sailboat’ — Sailboat miniature daffodil
Narcissus poeticuspheasant’s eye daffodil
Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica — striped squill
Scilla litardierei — amethyst meadow squill
Scilla mischtschenkoana — white squill
Scilla peruviana — giant squill
Scilla sibericaSiberian squill
Tulipa ‘Lady Jane’ — Lady Jane tulip
Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ — Lilac Wonder tulip
Tulipa humilis — species tulip
Tulipa humilis ‘Odalisque’ — Odalisque tulip
Tulipa linifolia ‘Red Hunter’ — Red Hunter tulip
Tulipa saxatilis — species tulip
Tulipa syluestrisFlorentine tulip
Tulipa tarda — late tulip
Tulipa turkestanica — species tulip