The Highline – New York

Last year i was lucky enough to spend seven weeks travelling in America. One of the highlights of my trip was New York city.

This was my second visit to the Big Apple. Unfortunately the first time i ran around ticking off all the big tourist attractions and then departed with extremely sore feet! When i probably should have tried to soak up some of the intense atmosphere that New York provides with its cafes, bars and awesome nightlife.

This time I spent some time exploring The Highline. I stayed in Chelsea so it was just a few blocks walk from the apartment i had hired for my time in the city.

For those of you who dont know – The Highline is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

It is a design collaboration between James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and planting designer Piet Oudolf.

Piet Oudolf is really one of the most influential landscape designers in the industry. He has also designed Battery Park and The Lurie Garden in Chicago. He designs more for the “Structure is the basis of all planting combinations, but traditional gardening has a lot of dogmas. I prefer to let things go their own way,” Oudolf has said. Plants that sprout far from their original location, for instance, are allowed to thrive rather than being ripped out, which enhances a free-and-easy feeling that some observers might call wild but Oudolf prefers to describe as spontaneity. As he explains, “A garden should be monitored and maintained but also have a balance between control and no control.” Which means you might want to let up on the weeding here and there.

I love the design of the Highline…soft planting that is allowed to really do its own thing. Spill over the garden edges and multiply at its own leisure. The long narrow design is extremely functional and engaging and for devising a unique paving system that gracefully transitions from fully paved surfaces to fully planted areas, or anything in between. The paving concept is linear and is a visual reference to the High Line’s original steel rails, forming long, narrow, parallel planting strips that combine and separate to form narrow or wide planting areas. This paving system is especially effective in introducing plantings in the park visitor’s path of travel, creating an unusual intimacy with the plantings.

Beautiful in a practical way, is the seating on the High Line. Below is an example of a repeated design, in which the floor of the park soars up to become a bench, in this case with a back for added comfort.

There is more than enough seating for the public in many forms. They can use the very structured seating, the lounge chairs, ampitheatre seating or just relax on the grass.

People are constantly coming and going, or stopping to rest in lounge chairs, reading, visiting, soaking up the sun. I doubt that many pay as close attention to the plants as I do, but it’s obvious they do get a lot of attention. The design of the High Line makes this happen by virtue of simple geometry and limited space.

The finished park is a creative, meticulously designed and built, and magnificently planted linear garden that recaptures the sense of place of the abandoned rail line. In a literal sense, it re-creates the former industrial west side, from the Meat Market to the former wilds of western Chelsea, and gives us a beautiful, new garden in the sky, one that has already begun to transform this part of Manhattan.

This really is a hugely successful park, it seems somewhat relaxing and quiet as you stroll through the park with the hum of NYC below you.

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How to grow tomatoes

I have heard the weather has been unusually warm in Australia, so i thought it appropriate to blog about tomatoes. Even though they should be planted in the Spring…it seems Spring is already here! So go ahead and get your vegetable garden prepared for the warmer months.

Tomatoes are arguably the most popular vegetable in the home garden. They are relatively easy to grow whether in the garden or in a pot. Sow seeds in Spring and you can harvest throughout the summer.

What variety to choose?

Tomatoes can vary enormously in shape and colour. Some popular varieties include: Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Sweet Bite, Kumato and Roma.

How to cultivate?

Buy seeds – Do a bit of research into what kind of tomatoes you would like to grow. Do you want large or small tomatoes? Do you want to grow them in a garden bed or in a pot on the balcony? You can ask at your local nursery for recommendations. Seed packets tell you when the seeds should be planted and how long they will take to bear fruit – which is usually 12 weeks from seed to salad bowl.

PLANT SEEDS 

Tomatoes are frost sensitive so you can plant seeds and raise the seedlings outdoors in frost free areas only. If you live in a frost prone area you will need to begin your tomato plants indoors in punnets or pots, then transplant them outside once the soil temperature is at least 20 degrees celcius.

WHAT SOIL

Any soil (except alkaline) with good drainage and high organic matter.

HOW TO FEED

Keep up a good supply of organic fertiliser. A light dressing of good quality poultry manure is fantastic for luscious tomatoes and should be applied to the soil a few weeks before planting.

HOW TO PRUNE 

Many people like to prune their tomato plants in order to reduce the overall size. Keep the main shoot in tact, but prune the side or lateral branches by tip pruning (meaning to prune the tip only, and this is very easy to do just with your fingers)

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TOMATO PROBLEMS

Stake tomatoes to reduce the incidence of anthracnose or soil rot. Control aphids and thrips to reduce the incidence of viruses. The best organic approach to these pests it to use an insecticidal soap spray every five to seven days. Alot of people ask hot to get rid of aphids without chemicals as then you eventually have to eat the tomatoes you are growing. Mix soap and water and it works a treat!

Fruit fly is also a major problem with soft fruit.  Once you have a fruit fly infestation it can be very difficult to get rid of. To non chemically treat, you will need to dispose of any infested fruit and burn or boil. You can put the fruit in a bag and leave in the sun for a few days being disposing of.

To chemically treat use a product called Dimethoate. I definitely dont recommend using chemicals unless completely necessary.

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MFO Park – Zurich

MFO Park was completed in 2007 and designed by Burckhardt + Partner and Raderschall Landschaftsarchitekten. The park itself is located in an industrial area transformed with residential housing, offices and schools.

MFO Park covers a rectangular plot of land. It is open on one side, and the other three sides feature stairs and walkways for traversing the structure. The whole is covered by a space frame that will someday be covered by vines like much of the rest of the structure.

It is more of a three dimensional plaza than a park. The design definitely references the previous industrial history of the area. The frame is galvanised steel construction, woven with steel cables and wrapped in a selection of climbing plants.

On the ground level there is little to keep your interest, but it has more impact from a vertical scale. Most of the ground is covered in recycled glass. There is also large sunken area with large lounge seating and a lily pond.

Open frame stairs lead to different platforms at various levels. Cantilevered balconies extend to the inside spaces and provides more seating options.

Most of the area under the roof is just gravel, more a walkway than a place for hanging out. Seating is grouped under multistory areas on the side and near the places where the plants climb, which makes sense, as these are where the shade is. The structural frame meets the ground via columns and diagonal bracing. At these points are where the plants start their climb.

This park links very much to the Zurich style. Industrial and minimal. I mean my local bar is in a shipping container!!

Its not what i personally like to see in the design of  park. I like something softer and with much more planting. But it definitely seems to work…people love it!

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What to do in the garden this month – August

The temperatures in Zurich have been scorching in the last few weeks. Apparently this is unusual…and that is why air conditioners are basically non existent. On Monday it reached 38 degrees!

Despite the fact that it is Summer here, i always think of my Australian friends and their Winter garden duties.

Plant bulbs in the Winter for beautiful bright blooms come Spring. Here is your how to guide.

Planting in pots

Potted bulbs are a great way of capturing the gardens seasonal delights for display inside the house or on a verandah. The pot must have a drainage hole, or the bulbs be lifted off the water in pebbles, otherwise the bulbs will rot, one of the main reasons for their demise in gardens. Its fine to bring your bulbs indoors for their month of flowering, but there is no such thing as an ‘indoor’ bulb, so take them back outside afterwards.

Planting in the garden 

If you’re planting bulbs in the garden, save yourself time by using a special bulb planter and a dibble (a small pointed garden tool) to make the holes. Plant the bulbs in drifts or clumps of five for a natural effect. Planting over the top of the ground with Sweet Alice or Lobelia will help disguise the leaves as they die down. Its important not to cut the dying leaves off when they are still green as this supplies the nutrients the plant needs to flower again.

Most bulbs can be left in the ground year after year and only need dividing up every three to four years. However, some like tulips and hyacinths- my in warmer zones, need lifting and refrigerating in March prior to planting out again so that they get the chill they need to flower.

When to plant 

Spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, freesia, iris and spar axis should be planted in the autumn. Summer and autumn flowering bulbs such as lilies, arums, dahlias, gladioli and hippeastrums should be planted during the winter and spring months.

How to plant bulbs in pots

1. Use a good bulb mix

2. Position the bulb with the growth point facing upwards and any dried root remains heading down. As a rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted twice the diameter of the bulb deep.

3. Bed the bulb firmly in the pot by pressing down the potting mix around the bulb then backfill with more of the potting mix. You can plant bulbs quite close together in tubs to make the display more enticing. If you do this, they will need extra water and fertiliser (try Yates Bulb food) to compensate for the overcrowding.

Bulb basics

1. Where to buy– Garden Centres.

2. Sun or shade– Most bulbs require full sun to light shade. Generally, heavier shade produces taller and softer stems.

3. Soil conditions– Bulbs like cool soil and do not grow well in poorly drained, wet conditions, with the expectation of Zantedeschia (Arum Lily)

4. When to water– Once planted, water bulbs occasionally and lightly for 8-10 weeks, so they dont dry out. Gradually increase the watering as the plant grows.

5. Chilling– Tulips and hyacinths are the only bulbs that require about 4-8 weeks of chilling time before planting. Prop them in the fridge crisper- do not freeze them.

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