Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gardens of the High Line– Book Review and Giveaway

I love a book that takes you somewhere else; somewhere you dream of going one day, but may never get the opportunity to visit. It's traveling at its most relaxed– no bags to pack, no hotel room to book, no flights to catch.

Gardens of the High Line transports you to New York City and a garden that floats thirty feet in the air. Best of all, you never have to leave the cozy comfort of your favourite chair.

It's been years and years since I last visited New York City. On my first trip, I went with my sister Nancy. My frugal sibling, hoping to save all our spending money for theatre tickets, booked us a room (the size of a large closet) at the downtown YMCA. There were lots of other college students there, but the place was pretty grim.

One morning Nancy wrapped her freshly washed head in a clean towel only to have a giant cockroach crawl out from the folds of the towel onto her forehead. She screamed and everyone came running to see who was being murdered. I still remember their annoyed faces when they found she was screaming about a roach!

Everyday we joined the lineups in Times Square for discount theatre tickets and every night we saw a different show. We shopped at Bloomingdales and Macy's. Best of all, I got to visit the city's big museums and art galleries. It made cockroaches and our grubby accommodation so worth it!

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

If I am ever lucky enough to go to New York City again, I'd love to visit in the fall when the leaves have begun to turn and the air is crisp and fresh. It would be my dream to stroll along the High Line in that magic time just before sunset, when the light is dipped in pure gold.

But until that day, I have this terrific book to take me there anytime I want.

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

One of the most amazing things about this garden is that it exists at all.

The story of the High Line begins in the 1930's when an elevated rail line was constructed to carry goods to and from Manhattan's largest industrial district. Things change, and by the 1980's rail transportation had fallen into decline. The last train, carrying three carloads of frozen turkeys, ran in the late 1980's.

Then the High Line sat neglected for nearly two decades. Finally it was slated for demolition.

But something unexpected happened during those twenty years of neglect. Nature reclaimed the space. Wildflowers and grasses sprang up from seeds carried on the wind and dropped by birds. A defunct piece of urban infrastructure had turned into a wild garden in the sky. Robert Hammond writes in the introduction to the book about his first encounter with the derelict mile and a half of elevated railway:

"When I first stepped up on the High Line in 1999, I truly fell in love. What I fell in love with was the tension. It was there in the juxtaposition between the hard and the soft, the wild grasses and the billboards, the industrial relics and the natural landscape, the views of both wild flowers and the Empire State Building. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. And it's that tension that gives the High Line its power."

Together with Joshua David, he formed Friends of the High Line in 1999 to advocate for the old rail line's preservation and reuse as a public space. They hired photographer Joel Sternfeld to take pictures of the High Line over a period of a year through all four seasons, so that everyone could see that this was a wildscape worthy of being saved. The public fell in love with those images. In 2004, the process of selecting a design team to revitalize the space began.

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

The plantings on the High Line were meticulously designed to look natural. The man behind this approach was Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf. Well-known for a naturalistic prairie style of planting, Oudolf writes in the book:

"For me, garden design is not about the plants, it is about emotion, atmosphere, a sense of contemplation."

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

The average soil depth on the elevated High line is just eighteen inches. The walkways and exposed train tracks call to mind the original railroad. The trees and native grasses have the same feel of the untamed wilderness that took root after the track was abandoned. The planting appears wild, but has been carefully considered and maintained.

From the book The Gardens of the High Line by Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke published by Timber Press. Excerpted with the permission of the publisher.

What inspiration can a large public space provide for a small home garden like the one you may have? Plenty! It could be a plant combination that captures your imagination or it might be something as simple as introducing a hint of that soft, naturalistic planting style into your own garden.

This fine example of urban revitalization is itself an inspiration. The High Line was once a rusting mass of steel. That it became something else speaks to the power of the imagination.

Someday I'd love to go there, but for now, I will escape into the pages of this book.

This is one of the most beautiful gardening books to cross my desk in recent years. The photography is stunning!! I am extremely grateful to Timber Press for providing a copy of Gardens of the High Line for me to give away. Because this book will go to a winner through the mail, we will have to limit entry to readers in Canada and the USA. 

Please leave a comment below, if you would like to be included in the book draw. The draw will remain open until Thursday, August 31stIf you are not a blogger, you can enter by leaving a comment on the Three Dogs in a Garden Facebook page (there is an additional link to the Facebook page at the bottom of the blog). You are also welcome to enter by sending me an email (

Click the link below for a documentary on the creation of the High Line. There also a link to a documentary about Lurie park– another of Piet Oudolf's garden design projects.

Piet Oudolf, Lorraine Ferguson and Rick Drake

About the Authors and Book Designer:

Piet Oudolf is among the world's most innovative garden designers and a leading exponent of a naturalistic or prairie style of planting. Oudolf's extensive work over 30 years of practice includes public and private gardens all over the world. He is best known for his work on the High Line and Battery Park in New York, the Lurie garden in Chicago's Millennium Park and Potters Field in London.

Watch an hour long documentary on the High Line

Watch a 10 minute video on the Oudolf's work on the
 Lurie Garden in Chicago

Rick Darke is a landscape design consultant, author, lecturer and photographer based in Pennsylvania who blends art, ecology, and cultural geography in the creation and conservation of liveable landscapes. His projects include scenic byways, public gardens, corporate landscapes and residential gardens. Drake served on the staff of Longwood Gardens for twenty years. He is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on grasses and their uses in public and private landscapes. 

Lorraine Ferguson is an independent graphic designer who collaborates with artists, curators, architects and authors in the design of books, exhibitions, signage and products for cultural and educational institutions.  


  1. How cool! and beautiful too! I love it when old infrastructure is turned into something beautiful. Have a great weekend!

  2. This is so amazing to me, wow. What an awesome idea, and so beautifully executed!

  3. The NYC High Line is one of my favorite places, especially because of the story behind it. I would love to be included in the book draw. Thank you for sharing these wonderful gardens.

  4. Yes please include me in the draw for this beautiful book. Oudolf is such an inspiring garden designer.

  5. Sounds like a fabulous book! Please include me in the drawing. Thanks!

  6. Sounds like it would be a wonderful place to visit. Please include me in the draw. give away such wonderful books!

  7. Jennifer, the High Line is a truly amazing and very, very beautiful place.
    I hope that you are able to come back to NY someday.

  8. I am a follower of both Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke, so would love to win a copy of what I can already see is an outstanding collaboration. Someday, I hope to travel to NYC and walk this ever evolving masterpiece. Your blog is one of my favorites, and I thank you for offering this drawing.

  9. Please enter me in the book giveaway. Thanks

  10. Stunning scenery. I keeping saying we need to go and see the High Line. We are about 2 1/2 hours from NYC. Please enter me in the book drawing! And thanks for sharing or I wouldn't have known this book existed. Cheers!

  11. I'm not sure if I entered this already but I would love to win this for my husband who wrote a paper in college about green spaces along railroad tracks. He was ahead of his time. It was back in the late 60s. Thank you for the opportunity.

  12. My mother and I dragged my teenage daughter to the High Line several summmers ago. Even if you are not a fan of the prairie style, the garden is a magical juxtaposition of nature and city scapes worth visiting. I took tons of ideas for native flower combinations home to my more tamed garden where they worked beautifully. I was in love with this place, my mother was proud to show it off, and my grumpy daughter begrudgingly admitted that it was "nice" - high praise indeed! Please enter me in the drawing for the book.


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