Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for Curbside Plantings

What do you have planted in that area between the street and the sidewalk? Most people have no idea what to do with that little strip of grass and usually leave it alone because it can be a difficult spot to make attractive. Before getting started on your design remember to contact your city and utility companies and HOA to find out what can and can’t be planted in this area.
My HOA won’t allow me to plant the whole strip between the street and the sidewalk but I was able to a small portion near the mailbox.

· Plant selections- Look for plants that are durable and look good with minimal care. Aim for 80% of the plants to have some winter interest to keep the area looking good year round. Use the remaining 20% to embellish with seasonal flowers.
· Plant in layers- Start your design with several short shrubs or grasses that won’t block visibility. Next find an evergreen groundcover to help cover the ground and keep out weeds. Now add flowering bulbs, perennials and annuals. Choose varieties that don’t need constant deadheading or dividing. A few ideas: black-eyed Susans, sedums, Russian sage and purple coneflower. All these tolerate hot, dry conditions once established.

Some design tips:

1. If you have a privacy fence or retaining wall Create a “Walk Through” Garden by growing plants on both sides of the sidewalk. If you don’t have a privacy fence along the walk, choose a few plants for your curbside garden that tie it to the rest of your front yard or foundations plantings.
2. Remember Accidents Do Happen. It’s inevitable that people will step into the beds. Choose plants that can take some abuse, like tall sedum. If they get damaged they’ll quickly bounce back.
3. People Will Always Take The Most Direct Route so let them by including several narrow paths or stepping-stones so they can walk through the garden instead of having to walk all the way around. Remember to keep tree branches trimmed high enough so people don’t have to duck.
4. Don’t Block The View of drivers or pedestrians especially at intersections. You can figure this out by driving your car along the area you want to landscape and look around. Then park, get out and walk along the sidewalk to determine how tall the plants can be.
5. While Your Car Is Parked along the curb, open the passenger door to help you figure out how far to set plants back from the street so visitors don’t have to step directly into your perennials. This distance is usually a foot but wider is better. A border of bricks or a few stepping stones show visitors where to step.
6. Use Separate Soaker Hoses in each bed so you don’t have them stretched across paths where they can trip people. When you attach soakers to the house clearly mark the location where they cross the sidewalk. Cover the hoses in the beds with mulch so they don’t show.

Durable shrubs: Althea, Hollies, Spirea, Abelia, Flowering Quince, Forsythia, and Shrub Roses
Tolerant small trees: Crepe Myrtle, Grancy Greybeard, Redbud, Serviceberry, Smoke Tree, Spicebush, Witch-Hazel
Enduring Annuals : Celosia, Dusty Miller, Coleus, Gomphrena, Moss Rose, Sweet Potato, and Zinnia
Hearty Perennials: Daisy, Goldenrod, Hellebore, Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Salvia, Aster, Daylily

For more plant suggestions check out: “Some Like It Hot” Flowers That Thrive in Hot Humid Weather by P.J. Gartin, “Tough Plants for Southern Gardens” by Felder Rushing and “The Carolinas Gardener’s Guide” by Toby Bost & Jim Wilson

Before photo was taken Oct. 2008, After photo taken April 2009

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