Garden Photo of the Day

Greenery in the Big City

Manhattan isn’t all concrete, steel, and glass

mass planting of smooth hydrangea in the city

Today’s photos are from Don Burgard.

My wife and I recently spent a few days at her sister’s apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Kate and I met as graduate students in Manhattan in the late 1980s but haven’t lived in the city since. In our mini-vacation in late June, I was struck by the beautiful gardens that are just minutes away from my sister-in-law’s apartment. First is the High Line—a long-abandoned elevated railway transformed into a 1.5-mile park with gardens designed by Piet Oudolf. The High Line opened in 2009 and has since become one of New York’s top tourist attractions. Then there is Little Island, an artificial island in the Hudson River accessible by a couple of short bridges, which just opened in May. Along with grassy areas, walking paths, and an amphitheater, this park packs a lot of plant life into its 2.4 acres.

But while I had been on the High Line before and had been encouraged ahead of time to visit Little Island by my sister-in-law, the gardens at Hudson Yards were a surprise. Hudson Yards is a gleaming new mix of skyscrapers, performance venues, and outdoor spaces—with some lovely and lush garden beds smack in the middle. Putting plants and skyscrapers together isn’t exactly novel, but the general density of Manhattan makes a place like Hudson Yards really stand out. Here are a few of the photos I took during the 92-degree morning of our visit.

the Vessel at Hudson YardsJust looking at these trees and garden beds made me feel cooler. The odd-looking structure in the background is the Vessel, a structure made from a series of interconnected stairways and a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of the greenery below.

view of Hudson Yards gardens from aboveAnd here’s the bird’s-eye view.

small garden bed in city gardenNow that the city is largely functioning normally again, here’s my idea to bring riders back to the subway: more plants around the entrances! Having ridden the subway regularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s—and entered and exited plenty of stops that were functional but far from beautiful—I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this. I love how the Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra, Zones 5–9) is spilling out over the railing and onto the path, and the persicaria (Persicaria amplexicaulis, Zone 4–7) blooms remind me of fireworks exploding—such exuberance for a mere subway stop!

mass planting of smooth hydrangea in the cityThe tall buildings surrounding these hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens, Zones 3–9) provide enough shade for them to thrive, even during a heatwave.

mass planting of purple coneflowers in the cityThis sea of coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 4–9) provides lots of nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies—and if watching them snack makes you hungry, you can just visit the food cart in the background.

large tree growing between large buildingsI’ll finish with one photo from the High Line. This shot is representative of what I hope is the future not just for New York but for all cities. It looks like the High Line (left) is unable to contain all that wonderful plant life and so it is spilling over the edge to meet a tree rising up from the street level. And then after a small gap, the garden continues on the rooftop to the right. Finally, if you look in the upper left, you’ll see yet another rooftop garden.


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View Comments


  1. Maggieat11 08/11/2021

    Thoroughly enjoyed your post. Entices me to visit! Thank you!

    1. donburgard 08/11/2021

      Manhattan can feel overwhelming sometimes, but plants are a natural sedative. If you visit, have a great time!

  2. Rebeccazone7 08/11/2021

    What a treat. These pictures show a much more enticing picture of the city, than what most country people, me, envision. Thank you so much for sharing them.

    1. donburgard 08/11/2021

      I moved to Manhattan at the tender age of 21 after having lived in small towns in West Virginia and Maryland. I experienced major culture shock, but I learned to love the place.

  3. Jay_Sifford 08/11/2021

    I really enjoyed your tour. Thanks for sharing.

    1. donburgard 08/11/2021

      You're welcome!

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 08/11/2021

    Fun to see lush green in the city. I particularly enjoyed the overflowing high line photo.

    1. donburgard 08/11/2021

      Yes, even though I was focusing on Hudson Yards, I had to throw in that last photo. Thanks for commenting!

  5. sandyprowse 08/11/2021

    An amazing posting. Just wonderful to see New York’s take on greening up their fantastic city. Thank you for opening our gardener’s eyes to this accomplishment.

    1. donburgard 08/11/2021

      Let's hope that more city planners, developers, architects, etc., realize that people thrive when plants thrive. Thanks for your comment!

  6. btucker9675 08/11/2021

    There's just no place like NYC!!! I miss being able to drive in whenever I wanted. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos.

    1. donburgard 08/11/2021

      My wife and I live close enough to drive, although sometimes we take the train. Unlike walking through beautiful gardens, driving through Manhattan raises my blood pressure!

  7. User avater
    simplesue 08/11/2021

    The importance of green spaces in cities is something you just feel.
    When there are green spaces- the vibe is more peaceful and relaxed.
    I think people who don't even consider themselves nature lovers gravitate towards a green space in a city.
    So nice to see your beautiful photos and hear how it affected you in a positive way, and to get a little tour here on Fine Gardening without traveling!

  8. donburgard 08/11/2021

    Thanks for your comment. I have certainly enjoyed seeing gardens pictured in the GPOD from places I have never been. For me, it's a helpful reminder that the world is full of beautiful places.

  9. Mashabear21 08/26/2021

    I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. Cheers from | Lehigh Valley Deck and Fence

  10. Mashabear21 09/02/2021

    I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. Cheers from || Lehigh Valley Deck and Fence

  11. BreanaM 10/01/2021

    This is really my passion now a days, I love seeing them grow and that makes me so happy.

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