High Line – Part 2

As I mentioned in my prior post, the third and final section of the High Line in NYC was completed last September. It is a huge departure from the other sections …  and it totally worked for me. It is known as the “The High Line at the Rail Yards” and you’ll see why that name was chosen in a few.

I highly suggest reading this before proceeding. A much more intelligent and eloquent writer really nailed it and fortunately, I was able to read it before taking the stroll. With that backdrop, it really provided the necessary perspective. My only regret is that I didn’t take the tour at sunrise or sunset. Did you see the photos in that link above? Stunning shots.

The funny thing is, as I approached the new section, my first question was “Is this all everyone says it is cracked up to be?” What would you think after this view below?


A genuine mess, right? Would it distract enough and take away from what is going on above?

My doubts were eventually lifted as I entered the “11th Ave Bridge“. It takes you in a westerly direction (towards NJ) and provides stunning views of the Hudson River. The bridge is slightly elevated to enhance said views.




Nice. I’m all in.

After crossing the 11th Avenue Bridge, you soon understand why it is known as the “Rail Yards”. Take a look at the photos below.




The Rail Yards will soon look much different as they will be replaced by the Hudson Yards which will be a series of high rise buildings home to condominiums, businesses and retail space at a cost close to … gulp … 20 billion.

Interesting factoid – the Hudson Yards were given the green light only after NYC was denied the 2012 Olympics and missed out on the relocation of the New Jersey Nets to the west side of Manhattan.

To the naked eye, the old rail lines along the walk appear to still be suffering from neglect. Looks like a bunch of weeds run amok; Queen’s Anne Lace galore.

However, those are actual plantings that have been strategically placed that way to evoke memories of the abandoned rail line prior to the creation of the High Line.






So you may see “unruly” but I see a genius at work. A perfect representation of “what was”. As the famed garden designer and High Line planting coordinator/ruler/overseer Piet Oudolf put it, “It’s not wild at all, it’s an introduction to the wild ”.

My biggest concern would be how this all looks/plays out once the Hudson Yards project is completed. Because as of right now, I dig the plantings with the endless mess of rail cars below. It truly evokes old NYC.

So if I had to best summarize the “Rail Yards” experience, it is cool urban-retro-neglected-garden look with modern amenities along the walk and … sick views.


Part 3 soon to come where all I will focus on is the plants.










Pipeline update

First off, a big thank you to all of you who have reached out via comment, email, phone, etc. We truly appreciate all of your concern and support.

The concept of a private company being able to tear up your property against your will in order to dump a hazardous monstrosity on it is a tough one to swallow. It is life altering and the uncertainty of the future makes it tough to navigate the day-to-day right now.


I already see the kids looking out the window suspiciously at any vehicle that enters the street and I’m having a hard time enjoying my beloved garden now that the future is murky. No more long term planning or new garden beds to dream of.

But I digress …

To catch you all up on what is going on and where things stand, here is a summary:

  • The proposed natural gas pipeline from PennEast Pipeline Company would run from NE Pennsylvania, under the Delaware River, into NJ (Hunterdon County) and would terminate in Pennington, NJ (Mercer County).  A total of 110 miles.
  • The pipeline will carry natural gas on a continual basis through a 36 inch diameter pipe that would be buried at least 3 feet in the ground.
  • The easement that would house the pipeline would be 50-100 feet wide.
  • We will not be tapping into or benefiting in the future from the use of the natural gas as we will continue to use propane.
  • Word of the pipeline first emerged in October 2014. The first proposed route also emerged at that time. We were not directly in the line of the pipeline then but it was still less than a 1/2 mile from our home. As of this past Friday, the proposed route has changed, for reasons unknown, and we are now directly in its path.
  • FERC is scheduled to render their decision in 2016 with construction starting some time in 2017.
  • There has been an incredible fight by the community from the get-go and the fight has never been about the location of the pipeline but the fight to defeat its existence at all.
  • We’ve attended town halls and other meetings along the way and have become well educated on fracking, the ways of the pipeline companies, what to do if you are contacted by any of the companies even loosely affiliated with PennEast and of course, all of the concerns that come with the pipeline (well contamination, safety, destruction of farmland/preserved land, etc.). Color us concerned.
  • PennEast has been conducting/attempting to conduct property surveys for months now. Only 1/3rd of property owners have allowed the company to survey and that has created a bit of a roadblock for obtaining the necessary permits.
  • We’ve just received our official letter requesting a survey …  and I’ll leave it at that.

Obviously, a lot more to come with this and I’ll continue to document along the way. It somehow helps me deal with the gravity of the situation and just maybe it helps spread the word a bit.

If you want to know more about this pipeline and concerns with pipelines in general, I highly recommend checking out this blog:

The Cost of the Pipeline

And finally, I would love for you to sign the following petition which asks the federal government (FERC) to add additional public meetings where all of the people can be heard with their concerns in regards to the PennEast pipeline.

Come to me, DRBC

Thank you





High Line visit – Part 1

High Line post no longer on hold.

While the future of my personal garden is up in the air, I’m doing my best to keep a positive attitude. To keep pushing on and living life to the fullest even though the future is so uncertain. And today nothing makes me happier than writing about the High Line.

So I will do just that.

I took a day off last week to spend it entirely on the High Line. It did not disappoint. Well check that, the $46 cost for parking was a bit of a BS deal disappointment, but when in NYC …

It was the perfect summer day without a cloud in the sky. While all others were slumming away at their jobs, I was gleefully pacing the old elevated freight rail line stretching from 14th to 34th street in Manhattan.



I had visited the High Line back in September and only had a chance to walk it between 14th and 20th street. This time I walked the entire thing … three times.

Once without taking a single photo in order to get a good feel for this urban oasis in its entirety, a second time to observe the surrounding buildings and their interplay with the garden and a third time to pay special attention to the plants. The story of the plants will be covered in a separate post because well, they deserve it.

I love Manhattan. I love the chaos, the diversity, the energy and the aura of wondering what is going on behind the doors of each building as you pass by. I guess I like the extremes. The extreme calm quiet and “country” of my little hamlet in NJ and the extreme of everything in NYC. I’ll pass on the suburbs.

What immediately strikes you upon entering the High Line is how different Manhattan looks not only from the elevated view (30 feet above the streets) but the juxtaposition between hard urban and soft plant life. It is overwhelming at first (in a good way) until you settle in and let the reality of this special place suck you in.


Even the obnoxious billboards are softened by all of the greenery.


So as I started my second full tour of the park, I focused on the nearby buildings and how they are integrated into the park itself.

While the obvious sight here is the Empire State Building, I was actually more absorbed by the church that sits in front of the world famous landmark. The church is the “General Theological Seminary”, an Episcopal seminary chartered in 1817 and home to one of the greatest collection of Latin Bibles in the world. I find that to be very cool.


I absolutely love the compass plant and the way it twists and turns to and from the sun. It makes for wonderful photos with the “city” backdrop.



More than once, I found myself glued to the view below. As much as I love me some Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium), the building in the background is what caught my eye. It is the IAC building, headquarters for Barry Diller’s Interactive Corporation.


I have no idea if this is a residence or not, but either way, I want to live there.



I guess Bisazza is some sort of high end mosaic designer and they just opened this flagship store on the High Line. Big deal, I just want to hang on their rooftop deck.


Another spot to lounge and be seen by those walking the High Line. I especially love the astro-turf/putting green flooring.


The artwork/sculptures along the way pack an even larger punch when viewed from up on high.




This one is very cool. That is not graffiti on the brick wall. It is a sculpture that is at least 10-20 feet away but obviously placed there to create the illusion.


Not window washing, but building surface washing. This is “HL 23″, the first building to be named after the park. It’s claim to fame is that it is wider by 40% at the top in order to conform to NYC zoning laws.


The bulk of the High Line is surrounded by Manhattan construction projects galore. Once could argue that it fits right in with the urban/garden vibe or that it is a distraction. I sort of lean towards the former.


My next post will cover the latest section to be completed (September 2014), between 30th and 34th street. It is a complete departure from the other sections yet makes a lot of sense when viewed as a whole.

Until then …

I am pissed off

The title is no joke.

Nothing witty to come or a play on words.

Yes, this is a gardening blog, but I need the outlet for something different today.

I had originally intended to piece together a nice long post about my recent visit to the High Line in New York City. I was casually reviewing the 300+ photos I had taken when my wife called. I immediately could sense the uneasiness and stress in her voice.

High Line post on hold.

Since October we have been fighting the planned natural gas pipeline that is intended to cut through our quiet little country town. It literally came out of nowhere and caught us all off guard. Up until that point, I was vaguely aware of the fact that pipelines of all sorts run underneath us in our daily lives. But living in the “country” with propane gas, a well and septic, you tend to be a little oblivious about these things.

But not anymore.

For now, I won’t get into the arguments against the need for this pipeline or fracking as a whole. I am generally “middle of the road” when it comes to these types of debates. I like to think I weigh both sides evenly in  a logical manner. If you want to call me wishy-washy, go right ahead. That is who I am and I won’t apologize for it.

But this is different.

The pipeline will be a topic I will cover in this blog quite often over the next few weeks/months/years. And with this one, there will be no middle ground. I am fucking pissed (pardon my French).

Because as of today, the PennEast pipeline is now set to completely envelop my property.

We haven’t actually been notified by anyone of this change.  My wife discovered it 2015 style, on Facebook. The map of the pipeline route was recently amended and only because we belong to a private group on Facebook were we made aware of the alterations. Why the route was changed, we still don’t know.

It’s one thing to fight against something when you are only indirectly affected. But damn it is a whole lot different when you are directly impacted. I’m already feeling guilt over not fighting longer and harder before today for all those in the path of this unnecessary 36 inch behemoth. It is not about “not in my yard” but “not at all”. For that I feel regret and will do my best to urge others to look at this the same way.

If you are interested in the specifics of this proposed pipeline, read this.

I am pissed because you are destroying pristene land that so many fought for over the years.

I am pissed because I remember the explosion in Edison, NJ like it was yesterday.

I am pissed because of your shady practices.

I am pissed because the township gets nothing out of this other than a nice scar that will live on for eternity.

I am pissed because if you wipe out my garden or even damage it a bit, you are wiping out a huge part of me.

I am pissed because I still play baseball/softball with my kids in the backyard. I’m not ready for that to end.

I am pissed because you will be messing with my water supply.

I am pissed because money always wins.

I am pissed because I have no idea what the future holds. Can they take my house/property if it goes that far? Even if not, will it ever be the same?

I am pissed because you have put my wife and kids into a panic. How do you explain this to a 9 year old? Her response to hearing about it, “Can we call the police?”

But I will tell you this. I will fight like hell until the very end. I want my kids to know that you never give up, that you never stop fighting for what you believe in.

Game fucking on.

















A return to the garden

This may sound a bit ridiculous, but a week away from the garden is a really, really long time for me. We’re talking serious separation anxiety. Then again, if you are reading this blog, you probably aren’t surprised as you are more than likely just as obsessed as I am.

We were on vacation all of last week and just returned home. As exhausting as the drive home was to NJ and as tired as we all were as a result of the 5:42 A.M. daily awakening from the seagulls who thought they were roosters, my heart warmed up when we pulled into the driveway. Even from a distance I could tell that the garden had transformed significantly in only a week’s time.

Let’s take a closer look at all of the activity.

There were newly emerged flowers filling the air with a killer scent that screams “sweetheart of summer” as seen with these Clethra (Summersweet) blooms.





Here is a fully blooming hydrangea that has never looked this good in three years of existence.




It was as if the Mountain Mint waited until the minute after we left for vacation to spread it’s wings.



The summer blooming Allium arrived and the bees can’t get enough of them.



Almost all of the Panicum (Switch Grass) are blooming and damn if those wispy blooms don’t light up the garden.




The only Northern Sea Oats I haven’t killed off in self defense is in full blooms and the oats on ‘River Mist’ are swaying with even the slightest breeze.




Many perennials are now showing their first signs of blooming, as seen with the two different Lobelia below.




Others perennials are slowly fading away but still lending a “look” to the garden. Like Allium ‘Drumsticks’.


… and Astilbe.



Others seemed to have bloomed and turned for the worse in the course of only a week as seen with Coneflower ‘Sunrise’.



Even some unexpected and sweet flushes of new growth appeared.



Speaking of new growth, the Red Twig Dogwood is up to 6 feet tall confirming that a pruning to the ground is the way to go as it has never looked better.



We’ve got chiles.


And oodles of tomatoes.



Because I am awesome and have created a wildlife friendly garden, the butterfly/bee/hummingbird/humming moth activity is off the charts right now.




Not all is grand however. A few perennials ain’t be looking so good.



And holy s, the weeds didn’t take a week off as I had asked.




Same goes for the deer.


Returning from vacation is always tough, but coming home to a thriving and active garden makes it all a little more palatable.

Welcome back me.


Backlit by the sun

Here is my best attempt to play professional photographer by taking advantage of the early evening sun. There is nothing more stunning than the sight of plants beautifully backlit by the natural light of the sun.

I’ve done my best over the years to piece together the section of the garden that is best exposed during this “golden hour”. At this point in time, it may be my favorite part of the entire garden.

I hope you enjoy it.































Early to Rise

The following is an exact account of a recent weekday morning in my garden. I kid you not, the exact times were recorded for authenticity. Also, the emotional roller coaster captured here is 100% real. I caught the gardening bug in 1998 and there is nothing I can do to get rid of it.   

5:44 AM – Alarm goes off … and when I say alarm, I mean my wife physically assaults gently nudges me as she shuts off the alarm I never heard/hear. Time to tend to the garden because it is my passion (now re-read that previous sentence knowing it is 100% sarcastic).

5:47 AM – Coffee is made. Why am I up this early? Am I a farmer?

5:53 AM –  I am standing in my driveway with a large lightweight container that is easily portable and great for collecting weeds, an Ames trowel (product placement intentional), pruners and my coffee mug. There are multiple unidentifiable insects in my coffee. I am not fazed. There is a creepy/cool fog I have to walk through to get to the backyard. There is nothing but the sounds of the birds and Japanese beetles flying stupidly into the vinyl siding (more on that later).

6:00 AM – I start to eradicate some weeds and have this overwhelming desire to stop. I’ve been weeding like mad for days now and I am fried. This always happens when I know we will be having people over in the not too distant future. Normally I don’t sweat the weeds too much and have no issue when the garden is “under construction”. I know the end game. But when regular folk (aka non-plant people) are expected to view the garden, I feel the pressure to clean it up. Non-weedy bare earth appeals to the masses more so than a wonderful mash-up of summer perennials.

6:05 AM – I’m done. Cannot complete another task. But I am up and awake so I’m going to attempt to tour the garden with an eye towards future planning and a simple enjoyment of all that I’ve done over the past few months.

6:06 AM – Oh good.


Even better.


The Japanese Beetles have arrived in masses and they have taken up residence on many of my plants. They haven’t been an issue for years but man they have made up for lost time. I literally start squishing them in my hands in a fit of anger.

So much for no tasks.

After 100 or so fatalities I realize this will take all day. For the most part they are only on the Dappled Willow and one Basil plant. I’ll leave them for now and then fix the damage before everyone’s arrival on Sunday.

I’m losing all of my gardening mojo.

6:23 AM – There is nothing I could have done. There is nothing I could have done. There is nothing I could have done. Beetle traps don’t work. Beetle traps don’t work.

6:30 AM – Wow. I love the combo of the ‘Little Grapette’ daylillies and the foliage of Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’. How have I never noticed that before? Oh yeah, because the deer never allow the daylillies to bloom.

Mojo coming back a smidge.


6:34 AM– It may be everywhere, but dammit if I don’t love the simple combo of Purple Coneflower and Russian Sage.


Or should I be more creative? Am I better than that? Damn, how snobby. Who do you think you are?

6:40 AM – Is this an Abelia? I always considered it a space filler but now it seems to stand out more than before. I should move it to a new location. But why, let it continue to get established, right?


Does everyone over analyze their garden as much as I do? I need a hobby.

6:47 AM – I still say surrounding my vegetable/herb garden with grasses was one of my better moves. Although soon I’ll need to hurdle the grasses in order to tend to my tomatoes/beans/zucchini.


6:54 AM – I’ve resorted to cutting all of my hydrangea blooms and bringing them indoors before the deer destroy them. Does that mean I win or the deer win? Or does my wife win with the blooms indoors? Why haven’t I done that for her more often?


7:00 AM – In the shower and getting ready for the day job. You know, the one that actually PAYS.

“Joey Pye and the Grasses”

If I had to sum up my garden in let’s say, six words, and if it also had to be a killer name for a rock band,  it would be “Joey Pye and the Grasses”.  Phenomenal, right? Can’t you just imagine the band logo?

I have gathered quite a few Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) plants over the years. I can always find room for one more and have no issue tucking them into tight spots. If I measured “square feet taken up by particular plants”, ornamental grasses would be the winner with Joe Pye coming in 2nd place.

It all started with a few 6 foot tall Eupatorium purpureum and eventually evolved into smaller cultivars as well. They seem to work with everything; other summer blooming perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses to name a few.

These are absolutely the most reliable perennials in my garden and the deer and rabbits leave them alone.  I have some in full sun, others in partial sun, some in waterlogged soil and others in drier soil. They thrive everywhere.

Have I mentioned that the critters totally dig them?

joe pye weed

Here are a few in bloom as of this week.






If you look closely at the three photos above, you’ll notice that there are grasses in the vicinity of all of the Joey Pyes. Go ahead, take a closer look … I’ll wait.

In a few more weeks, the Eupatorium and ornamental grasses will really start to take over. You’ll notice it as a common theme in most of my August/September blog posts.

Speaking of grasses …

Karl Foerster has been blooming for a few weeks now.


And are a nice backdrop for summer blooming perennials.


Panicum ‘Northwind’ (imagine me now dropping the mic and walking off stage). That is an indication of their awesomeness factor.




Other Panicum, like ‘Heavy Metal’ are showing signs of initial bloom.


And Panicum ‘Rots’ has that initial red coloring we all know and love.


Speaking in very general terms, I find myself disliking Miscanthus more and more. While the ‘purpurascens’ below has off the charts great fall color, they have no real shape or impact until that point.


Speaking of “lack of shape’, Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ has none and most likely needs division in the near future.


Many more grass discussions to come in the very near future.