Friend Judy Mann visited the High Line yesterday and sent me this photo, asking the name of the tree: "...quite glorious, but I never saw anything like them before. Do you know them?"). My answer: Purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), exact cultivar not known.
I'd normally have described this as a scraggly specimen in need of a drastic pruning. But this planting makes me see it anew. And quite striking it is, with its awkward pompons stretching toward the open sky, and the contrasting low perennial surround. (And note there are several more in the distance.) The High Line is doing interesting, creative work, delightful horticultural accents to the Oudolf-designed plantings, and obviously entertaining park goers. These eye-catchers are capturing the public's attention and making them want to know more. A good thing.