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Get Growing: High Line

High over the streets of Manhattan is an unusual and popular public park called the High Line. Once a derelict abandoned elevated freight rail line destined for demolition, this is one of the high lights of a trip to New York City.

A group of volunteers saw the potential for a public park in this urban wasteland — and, man, were they right. My children all live in the New York City area and they all love the High Line. My younger son often walks through the public park en route to various galleries in Chelsea and the Lower East Side. He is a wonderful guide to the sights seen from this marvelous walkway. But if you are going on your own without his guidance, do pick up the new guidebook, “On The High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park,” by Annik La Farge. The book describes the history of the park and the urban area above which it wends as well as the design and plantings. There are stunning photographs, including many taken by Joel Sternfeld before the High Line was created. In fact his photos helped inspire the designers to replicate some of the ambience of old railway line.

The fold-out maps for each section of the park, which stretches from 14th Street to 34th Street, orient you to the surroundings. You will feel like a native New Yorker as you identify the DVF Studio (Diane von Furstenberg) and Frank Gehry’s IAC Building and the famous piers along the Hudson River.

You also will appreciate the challenge of gardening high in the sky under the broiling sun. You will delight in the sun decks and the amphitheaters and know where to find rest rooms and food vendors.

A trip to New York for many tourists means the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or an opera, ballet or theater performance at Lincoln Center. But if you really want to understand the appeal of the Big Apple, take time to wander along the High Line. Get the book and then go online to www.thehighline.org to check out special events, current art and a complete plant list. Many of the plants selected by the great Dutch designer Piet Oudolf are American natives, many from the prairies, and they may not be familiar to a New Englander. You will surely come home with a new appreciation for the wonders of New York and with a new list of plants for your garden.

I’ve only been to the High Line twice but I long to go again — preferably on a cool day with plenty of time to stroll and sit and admire the view and confer with the friendly gardeners. This is one of the wonders not only of New York but of our entire country.

WEED ID: One of the hardest things — especially for new gardeners — is deciding what is a weed and what is a valued seedling. I highly recommend a publication by UMass Extension for identifying troublesome weeds. It is “Pest Identification Guide for Weeds, Insects and Diseases of Woody Ornamentals.” Although the insects and diseases focus on woody plants, trees and shrubs, rather than vegetables or annual flowers, weeds are the same for all garden plants. This 80 page guide has great color photos that made identification quite easy. Last fall at the Franklin County Fair a visitor to the master gardener booth brought pictures of 20 weeds in her Vermont garden. We were able to identify all but one of them using this guide. If you don’t know your chickweed from your chicory or your plantain from your pokeweed, this is a small investment. The cost is $18 plus shipping and handling of $5. Order online at UMass Extension Bookstore.

WATER FEATURES: Jeff Paquette of Picture Perfect Ponds will give a lecture on water features tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke. A donation of $5 is suggested to help restore the museum gardens.

LANDSCAPE AND GARDEN DESIGN: Mollie Babize, land-use planner, will give a tour of the deep-retrofitted house, restored gardens and demonstration kitchen garden at The Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield on Sunday at 2 p.m. The property is owned by the Trustees of Reservations. Learn how to translate the principles of garden design used as the property to your own landscape. Come with questions. Free to members of the Trustees of Reservations with a $5 fee for the general public. The address is 332 Bullitt Rd. in Ashfield just off Route 116; 628-4485, ext. 1.

GROW FOOD AMHERST: Become a member of Grow Food Amherst and receive a free tomato plant on Wednesday at the Amherst Farmers Market at Kendrick Park. The goal of Grow Food Amherst is to encourage 350 local residents to start and register their vegetable gardens as members of the advocacy group. So far more than 300 people have registered. There are 50 plants available to new registrants. The hours of the booth are 2-6 p.m. Grow Food Amherst is organizing workshops on food growing and food preservation throughout the summer, fall and winter. For more information go to www.growfoodamherst.org.

BARK: Learn to recognize trees by their bark on a field trip at Nasami Farm on June 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nancy Goodman will lead the walk through the perched swamp at the Whately conservation area owned by the New England Wild Flower Society. Free is $5. Participation is limited to 20 people. Register by calling 508-877-7630, ext. 3303, or go online at www.newenglandwild.org.

PLANT SWAP AND POTLUCK: BJ’s Flower Swappers meet on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in South Deerfield. This week is a potluck in addition to the plant swap. Bring food along with cuttings, seedlings, perennial divisions, etc. to swap. Fee is $2. The address is 2 Hobbie Rd., South Deerfield; 665-4039.

SUMMER WILDFLOWERS: Naturalist Nancy Goodman will lead a wildflower walk at Poet’s Seat in Greenfield on June 30 from noon to 4 p.m. Learn to key out plants using Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Registration is limited to 20 people. The program is sponsored by the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Register by calling 256-6006. Later wildflower walks will be held July 20 at Bare Mountain in Amherst and on Aug. 24 at Podick Swamp in Amherst.

SEED SAVING: The Hilltown Seed Saving Network plans a series of three workshops on saving seeds of specific crops. The first session is June 30, 2-4 p.m., at Crabapple Farm. Tevis Robertson-Goldberg will focus on saving seeds of beets and brassicas. The second session is July 27 at 9 a.m. with a focus on wheat with a final session in September on tomatoes and squash. Crabapple Farm is at 100 Bryant St., Chesterfield. Suggested donation is $10. For more information, contact Sadie Stull at 634-5013, or Michael Alterman at 358-6919 or alterman@speakeasy.net.

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