Visit to Wave Hill in New York City, Part 2


Wave Hill, an estate garden in the Bronx in New York City, which I visited on October 11, was romantically blowsy in the Pergola, Elliptical, and Flower Gardens near the entry. But it got a bit bolder, even Hollywood, in the Aquatic and Monocot Gardens.


These two gardens share a large, hedged “room” that visually separates them from the rest of the gardens. I’m nuts about those Dr. Seussian yuccas at the far end, their pincushion heads atop skinny trunks of varying heights. Like golden fireworks exploding against dark-green hedges, you can almost hear them going pow Pow POW! My daughter, standing with her umbrella, provides a sense of scale.


Although first frost couldn’t be far off, the pond plants were still full and lush. The water lily even had buds, though they were closed tight against the chilly rain.


Large, arching grasses with rosy plumes anchor each end of the pond…


…adding to the beautiful fall show.


Golden and variegated foliage cozies up to butter-yellow flowers for a nice color echo.


Clustered pots of tropicals by the bench offer sun-kissed color and bold foliage.


It’s formal symmetry done beautifully. The long pergola at the far end of the pond is part of the Monocot Garden.


I won’t bore you with the definition of monocot (the garden’s website explains; maybe you know, but I had to look it up). Let’s just say this garden is all about bold foliage.


Spiky and tousled heads of agaves in pots mingle with grasses, colocasia, bulbine, and other interesting foliage plants for a display that might even look at home in Austin.


Gourds dangle from the pergola, just begging to be turned into birdhouses.


Chartreuse foliage and a nearly black canna add to the drama.


We took shelter from the rain under the long pergolas that line each side of the pond garden.


No planting opportunity is overlooked, not even cavities in the toothy, stone walls that edge the pergolas.


The two pergola walks lead to stunning focal-point containers backed by a green hedge and set amid a grassy groundcover. This may be toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) with small succulents.


By now the rain was really coming down, so we ran up a shady path to a covered pergola, where we shook off the rain, sat on a bench, and admired the view.


That’s the Hudson River in the distance.


This is the Wild Garden, which, according to the garden’s website, “was inspired by the informally planted English wild gardens as championed by William Robinson (1838-1935), an influential nineteenth-century author and garden designer.”


Tiers of tall grasses and cane climb the hilly edge of the garden.


Lovely combos like these were starting to show fall color.


This meadowy, forest-edge view reminds me a bit of the Oudolf design on the High Line.


Just downhill from the Wild Garden, planted in the ruins of a former greenhouse, you enter the Herb and Dry Gardens.


Stone paving and walls retain and reflect heat and give this garden strong structure.


Climbing the stone stairs…


…you reach the Alpine House, where beautifully arranged troughs display rock-garden plants.


Just look at all these! They reminded me of an elegant, English version of my own succulent cinderblock-wall planter.


The effect is like a bonsai landscape.


Diminutive, gnarled trees in pots were ready to blaze into fall color too.


Inside the Alpine House, viewable through large, open windows, more rock-garden plants are displayed in pots amid artfully placed boulders.


Pitcher plants, hooded and open-mouthed like a chorus of cobras, enjoy a sunny spot on a wall nearby.


To escape the chilly rain, we had lunch in the cafe, located inside this lovely, old home.


Behind the other house on the property, beneath its rear terrace, we discovered this charming grotto pond.


A tall, trunking yucca or nolina out front reminded me of home, though it was incongruously set amid woodland-style shrubs.


A lawn sloped off to one side, framed by trees in pointilist, early-fall color.


Nodding, sleepy sunflowers were feeding a flock of birds until we walked up. Little bluestem was blushing at their knobby knees.


More fall color


As the rain pattered to a stop and the mist began to lift, we took a last long look at the view across the river. The Palisades and tall buildings on the opposite side were coming into clearer view.


On a drier day we’d have sat for a while in the Wave Hill chairs.


But I didn’t really mind the rain. It let us pretend the garden was ours for a couple of sweet hours.

Up next: An autumn stroll through New York Botanical Garden. For a look back at Part 1 of my visit to Wave Hill, click here. For my tour of the High Line park and garden in Manhattan, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Wave Hill, a Hudson River estate garden in New York City


I traveled to New York City with my daughter on October 10 to see public gardens. On Saturday, our first full day in New York, a chilly rain didn’t keep us from visiting Wave Hill, a 28-acre estate garden in the Bronx with a million-dollar view of the Hudson River and the Palisades, sheer cliffs of exposed, vertically striated stone on the opposite shore.

Wave Hill had a succession of owners and a few famous tenants between its construction in 1843 and 1960, when it was deeded to the City of New York. Mark Twain leased the place from 1901 to 1903, and as a boy Theodore Roosevelt summered here with his family. Two houses and a conservatory remain today, along with gardens acclaimed for their horticultural artistry.


We took the train for the 30-minute ride from midtown out to the Bronx, and from there a Wave Hill shuttle took us to the garden. Away from the bustle of the streets of Manhattan, we found ourselves in a serene oasis, with the soft dripping of rain and birdsong in our ears instead of honking horns and whooshing subways. You enter to views of a sweeping lawn leading to a long, vine-draped pergola. The river and Palisades view just beyond was partly obscured by mist.


Let’s save the pergola garden and turn right toward the simply named Flower Garden, a formally arranged garden of exuberant, colorful plant combos, surrounded by a Chippendale-style cedar fence and arbors.


Tall grasses partly screen the view as you enter.


Blackberry lily, tall verbena, and blanketflower add to the fall scene.


Pink cosmos threads through the grasses.


A wide brick walk runs through the center of the garden, with rustic cedar arbors and benches bookending the space. An impressive conservatory overlooks the garden.


Turning around, you can see the river and Palisades through a window in the arbor.


Paralleling the brick walk is a narrow stone path along the perimeter. Chartreuse plants glow even on this misty morning.


Glancing over the fence you see the lawn, with pairs of the famous Wave Hill chairs inviting you to sit and enjoy the view — on drier days, anyway.


Looking across the center of the garden, you see the conservatory framed by four fastigiate trees in pots. The bronze mound in the center is oxalis.


Yes, oxalis! I tried to part the foliage in order to discover how the mound was created: tiered containers, or mounded soil, or just a monstrous single plant? (Couldn’t be!) But it was raining pretty steadily by now, and I couldn’t juggle camera, camera bag, and umbrella well enough to look. It remains a mystery.


Looking to the far end of the garden you see the other arbor. Evergreen shrubs add year-round structure.


Turning around, here’s the opposite view.


I enjoyed this rich, purple foliage accented by orange and peach sunset hues.


Bold dahlias stole the show.


Red berries on a yellowing, potted tree make a pretty fall scene too.


Peach dahlias complement the bronze oxalis mound.


It’s such a textural garden, invitingly touchable, with sophisticated color combos.


We took a quick peek inside the conservatory, but aside from a few tables of succulents it wasn’t that interesting. So let’s go back to the pergola overlooking the Hudson.


Packed with potted plants and hung with vines, the pergola is essentially a container garden on steroids.


My daughter, investigating a plant or a fallen leaf from the shelter of her umbrella


Tearing my eyes away from the pergola garden, I paused to admire the mist-shrouded view from a handsome stone balustrade.


A double stair leads to the lawn below…


…and to the Elliptical Garden, formerly the site of a swimming pool.


Twin golden pots mark the entry to this small garden.


Concrete benches offer contemplative places to rest.


I love the melancholy, going-to-seed splendor of the autumn garden.


There are wooded trails to explore below the Elliptical Garden, but they were muddy and overhung with dripping foliage, so we headed back to the balustrade stairs and the pergola.


Summer’s zinnias were still hanging on.


Ivy was hanging too.


Back in the main gardens I admired the fall color in this scene: burgundy foliage and purple beautyberries.


We liked this cheerful vegetable garden too, planted along a vine-swagged, golden-yellow fence in the Paisley Bed, so named for its comma shape. The Paisley Bed is redone every year to new effect, so you won’t see the same design twice.

The Flower Garden and pergola views were gorgeous, but the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Wave Hill visit, which includes the dramatic Monocot Garden and pond, Mediterranean-style Dry Garden, and windswept Wild Garden.

For a look back at my 2-part tour of the High Line, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The High Line park in NYC, a skyline promenade, part 2


At the end of Part 1 of my post about visiting the High Line in New York City last weekend, we’d just entered Chelsea Market Passage. After the dimness of the passageway, you exit into bright sunlight on the aptly named Sun Deck.


Wooden lounge chairs resembling stacked pallets are surely the most popular seats on the High Line.


If someone stands up, a passerby darts over to snag a seat.


Some of the chairs have wheels that roll along rails, allowing you to cozy up to your neighbor.


A water feature across the path puddles water on the paving edge. A bog garden makes use of the overflow.


Sparrows were enjoying baths here when we passed by.


Nice views of the Hudson River can be glimpsed from benches and lounge chairs on the Sun Deck.


Bistro tables offer additional places to relax and enjoy the view.


While peak fall color was still a week or two away, we saw some reds and yellows on the High Line, in addition to the golden grasses.


‘Sinonome’ toad lily was in full bloom…


…as were asters and persicaria.


In the early 1900s, grand ocean liners docked at Pier 54. Today it’s used for concerts and other public events.


Just south of 13th Street you pass under the Standard Hotel.


Once again, a dim passageway segues into an open, brilliantly lit plaza and the Washington Grasslands. Earlier in the year, when the grasses are still small, the Grasslands look like this — very different, with rail lines visible amid the plants.


Farther along, you can see rail lines even amid the lush growth of late-season.


I love how the plants seem to have sprung up on their own in the rail bed — all a carefully planned illusion.


Moving on, with mellow fall color showing on either side of the path.


Turning around for a look at the Standard, I remembered reading that occasionally hotel guests give peepshow views to park-strollers below. Our view was entirely G-rated, however.


At the southern end of the High Line, you enter the Gansevoort Woodland.


The silvery trunks of gray birches gleam as they appear to spring from the railroad tracks.


A metal sculpture rises from the tracks as well.


Now we’d reached the end of the High Line, so we got off and took the subway to the 9/11 Memorial, which I’ll share with you soon. Afterward, we made our way back to Gansevoort Street and scored an outdoor table at Bubby’s, a cafe my friend Rebecca Sweet had recommended and which is overlooked by the High Line. We enjoyed a delicious early dinner and stayed to people watch for a while before walking back up the High Line stairs.


Now the light was low in the west, and the grasses and fading perennials had a golden glow.


I noticed a perfect color echo between the Hudson River and these blue shutters.


Plank paving with “colonizing” Mexican feathergrass


Back at the Tenth Avenue Amphitheater, we saw that the traffic-watching crowd had grown. Everyone wanted to pose for a photo in front of the windows overlooking the street.


These two women “sat” against the window, which created an illusion of sitting in midair, and which must have provided an interesting rear view for pedestrians below.


We stood on the path above, leaning against the railing, and watched two artists drawing the same architectural scene.


The people-watching here was excellent, not only on the bleachers below but on the main path as people passed us. While my daughter watched the artists with rapt attention, I turned around and watched the throngs of people passing by. Young and old, fashionable and casual, tourists and locals, every nationality you might think of — as they passed I looked each person in the face, and they looked back. It was so different from the streets below, where everyone puts on blank stares as they rush by. It was a High Line connection.


Moving on, I admired this narrow planting bed with heuchera and sedge mulched with charcoal gravel.


A pretty combo


Surrounding buildings were bathed in afternoon light.


The Lawn was in shadow though.


A drummer had set up on one of the benches, and his rhythms made for a good walking beat, if you were in a hurry. We sat down to listen for a while.


By this time the streets were in shadow, with only the tops of buildings still glowing.


It was getting late, after a full day on the High Line and surrounding areas.


As the sun dipped toward the river we made our way along the rail path on the northern end.


Here we saw not just peel-up benches but peel-up tables too.


Children were playing in the Pershing Square Beams, where the underlying steel beams of the High Line have been exposed and coated in silicone for safety. Here, children are allowed to do all the things they want to do in other parts of the park but can’t, like climb and balance and jump and explore grassy planting beds up close.


An underground passage leads to a “gopher hole,” where kids can pop up to get a prairie dog’s view.


The northern end of the High Line is a curving arc with views open to the Hudson River and across a rail yard where commuter trains are stored between rush hours.

I neglected to take a picture of the rail yard, which is too bad because that industrial view will be long gone by the time I return to New York. The planned Hudson Yards redevelopment project will build a floating foundation over the trains and stack skyscrapers, parks, and a public plaza atop it. It’s a massive private development project that will transform the skyline, and the High Line will be right there alongside it.

For now, though, it’s a serene, less crowded part of the park. The gardens here are meant to look even more like the self-seeded wildscape amid the rails that people worked so hard to save.


What a loss had they not. And what a triumph of imaginative reuse the High Line turned out to be.

Up next: My visit to Wave Hill, a public estate garden in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades. For a look back at Part 1 of my High Line visit, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.