So we got back from our trip to New York about a week ago. We had an excellent time, though travel wears me out more than it used to. Judy took about a thousand photographs (not an exaggeration). Most of the material I’m going to keep for later, but I do want to do one post now about a garden in New York that just opened this year.

Little Island is a 2.5 acre garden that is built on the remains of an abandoned pier on the Lower West Side.

It’s quickly become a very popular attraction. It’s a free public park, but to control crowding tickets are required after 12 pm. Fortunately, our hotel was only 2 blocks away, so it was easy to get to for a morning visit. It was an overcast day, though, so the light was less than perfect.

The garden rests on 280 concrete piles that were inspired by the old pier’s original wooden piles. Judy was struck by their undulating quality. They made me think of old-fashioned egg cups.

Entering the park you feel a bit like you are entering the Land of Oz.

The plantings are laid out on a series of small hills terraced with corten steel. The hills ring the perimeter of Little Island.

For a garden that just opened this year, the plantings looked surprisingly full and lush.

Each of the hills provides compelling views of the other plantings. Circular paths up each hill make the space seem larger than it is. At the same time, they provide a constantly varying range of vistas.

There were also areas of lawn in the center.

And an area of shaded seating where you can buy drinks and snacks.

Looking back, you see the dense urban landscape of Lower Manhattan. The tall building on the right is our hotel.

I love this mix of grasses, vines, and perennials.

Looking outward from the top of one of the hills, you can see across the Hudson River towards New Jersey.

There’s also a remarkable performance space that features concerts, plays, etc.

Grasses and dark conifers provide a nice contrast.

Stokesia and little pink landscape roses.

We spent almost the whole morning there. Leaving, we did feel lucky to have visited this innovative new garden.

36 Comments on “The Garden At Little Island, NYC”

  1. I have read about it elsewhere and watched the segment about it on Sunday Morning last week. I think you are lucky to see it in person. FUN. Can’t wait to hear more of your impressions about it. Those big pilings you said look like egg cups are supposed to be stylized tulips according to the segment I saw. All looks fascinating.

  2. A NYC photographer I follow posted about it recently, and I was fascinated. It’s good to see it again. Everyone focuses on different things, and this post really complemented hers. They layout seems so appealing. Not to criticize the Highline, but if I were in NYC and could go to only one place, I’d chose this one. I can well imagine spending a couple of days there.

    • The thing I noticed most about the High Line this time, compared to when I saw it five years ago, is how much it feels like you are walking along an old railroad track somewhere other than in the middle of a city. The plantings are kind of a fantasy of what might grow on abandoned railroad tracks. They’ve created some wonderful spaces, glades and paths. It’s much more atmospheric than it sounds like it would be.

  3. There is nothing I love more than seeing new green spaces in big cities…. Just think of all the developers who would have loved a piece of that prime land! It gives me hope for the future. Thanks for showing us this special place … I’d love to see it .. and who knows I might get lucky one day! Best wishes ..

  4. Such an amazing construction, it looks very futuristic, like something I might have seen as a child in a sci-fi film about another planet. The gardens on the other hand bring us back to earth and it looks beautifully laid out and allows city dwellers precious time with the plants and greenery. I like the idea of limiting the numbers, the effect would not be the same in the middle of a crush of people. Amelia

  5. Hello Jason you asked about the loosetrife being aggressive , and indeed it can be that is why I have kept it in the ally way garden .. it is easy to contain there .. I had the purple variety a few years ago .. super pretty but a little picky and it died on me. The white is very hardy of course .. if you have a sort if isolated area, they would fill in nicely .. dead heading brings more blooms as well.
    Your visit to this unusual garden was very nice and you are right about thinking of old fashioned egg cups with thinner stems. I almost missed those small pink roses ! Thanks for pointing them out !

  6. How exciting! As if there aren’t plenty of reasons already for a return visit to New York. Pier 54 had a storied history, and was done in by hurricane Sandy in 2012. This visionary philanthropic solution is a wonderful gift to New York!

  7. Hello Jason, that’s a really unusual, but lovely attraction, what caught my eye were the pillars, it took me some time to figure out that they arch over the entrance (one of your pictures helped). Despite the garden being new, much of the planting looked as though it had been there for several years. I also like the way that it seems to be busy in the afternoon whereas I’d be there first thing in the morning.

  8. Very late to this party, but when I saw you had written about Little Island, I had to read it, since my family and I just visited it on May 1. I was in awe of all the plantings. The hills are filled with drifts of daffodils of many varieties There are pasque flowers, and creeping phlox, and geum, and ice plant, and so many others! I could see many other later perennials getting their starts, so it must be lovely from early spring through fall. Despite going around 1:00 on a Sunday, we didn’t need a ticket–the sign on display now indicates that tickets are required only from May 12-September 18. My daughter is a student at NYU now, so I’m looking forward to going there with her during other seasons.

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