West-Of-The-Driveway Bed

About two years ago I put in one of my newer beds. It’s situated between the crabapple tree on the north and the sidewalk on the south. A thin strip of lawn separates the bed from the driveway to the east, and on the west is the neighbors’ lawn. Though it gets a bit of shade from the crabapple, this bed gets a lot of hot afternoon sun and is probably the driest of all my flower beds.

I wanted this bed to be no more than 3′ tall and wildlife-friendly. All of the plants attract pollinators, provide seeds for birds, or both.

Plants I have used here includes the following:

Tulipa praestans 'Fusilier'
Species Tulips ‘Fusilier’

Species Tulips (Tulipa praestans ‘fusilier’ and others). As I’ve written before, I love species tulips. Much more perennial than hybrids, the bulbs are smaller and easier to fit into a perennial bed.

Prairie Smoke and Starry Solomon's Plume
Prairie Smoke. This picture has both the flowers and a couple of seed heads.

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum). This prairie native forms a drought-resistant, low-growing ground cover. Unique pink flowers in early spring mature into wispy seedheads.

Harebell, Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Harebell with Lanceleaf Coreopsis

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).  Harebell is a North American native Campanula. The small, blue, bell-shaped flowers bloom pretty much from early summer to frost. Harebell looks dainty but is actually pretty tough, and can get by without much water. I grew both Harebell and Praire Smoke at the front of this bed along the sidewalk.

Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). Long-blooming yellow daisies on a 2′ tall, undemanding plant. Mine tended to grow a bit taller and needed staking.

Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' and Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ and Lanceleaf Coreopsis, displaying my favorite blue/yellow combination.

Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’). Scabiosa is one of the few non-native plants in this bed. However, with deadheading the blue pincushion flowers bloom all summer and into the fall. Another easy care plant, I combine it with Coreopsis along the east side of the bed.

Starry Solomon's Plume, Prairie Smoke
Starry Solomon’s Plume with Prairie Smoke in late Spring.


Starry Solomon's Plume Berries
Starry Solomon’s Plume Berries

Starry Solomon’s Plume (Smilacena stellata). Starry Solomon’s Plume grows only about 18″ high and does well in dryer soils. This North American native has small bunches of white, star-shaped flowers in spring and interesting striped berries in fall. Birds are fond of the berries. This plant spreads by rhizomes, but I find it does not grow thickly enough to really make a good ground cover. An undemanding plant, I’ve got it in the center of the bed.

Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolius, Anise Scented Goldenrod, Solidago odora
Aromatic Aster with Anise-Scented Goldenrod. I love the dark centers on this aster.

Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium). One of the best Asters because it stays relatively compact (about 3′) and is not overly aggressive. Also it has many, many small blue-violet flowers in mid- to late-fall.

Anise Scented Goldenrod
Anise Scented Goldenrod

Anise Scented Goldenrod (Solidago odora). A wonderful (2-3′) compact  goldenrod that plays well with others in the garden. I combine this plant with Aromatic Aster towards the back of the bed.

Prairie Dropseed
Prairie Dropseed.

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobulus heterolepis). I planted these along the west edge of the bed. This is a low-growing warm season grass of the prairie. Takes a few years to get established, so in the meantime I’ve filled in with ‘Orange Profusion’ Zinnias. The Dropseed is starting to look good, though.

I’m also trying to grow Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) in this bed. So far it’s just limping along, but I hope it will grow into more robust shape. I also had planted some Carolina Rose (Rosa carolina) along the west edge. This was a mistake. Carolina Rose spreads very aggressively. It’s also extremely thorny (ouch!). So last fall I pulled it out and replaced it with various Salvias.  We’ll see how it looks next year.

What are your favorite plants for dry, sunny spots?




47 Comments on “West-Of-The-Driveway Bed”

  1. I really like the goldenrod paired with the aster! What a striking combination! This bed is lovely and does double duty with being wildlife friendly and beautiful! And species tulips are amazing!!! I’m adding this one to my list as well!

  2. They all look so lovely. Do you use some kind of special fertilizer? Many of my flowering plants do not produce as much blooms. Others produce a lot. So, I am thinking that perhaps I need to provide fertilizers to them. Not sure what are my favorite dry flower plants as I don’t know much about flowers and I don’t water them. All my water are reserved for my veggies :-). My flowers are my neglected children.

  3. You have so many nice ones in your dry spots. Good job 🙂 I love the one with the berries. I haven’t really addressed my dry spots but for one I was thinking of planting this wild lilac that needs little or no watering. I will have to re-consult your list when I do decide to address them though.

  4. Some wonderful inspiration for my dry rockery! Thanks! The Geum is now on my wish list (love the name “Prairie Smoke”) and I will also look out for more compact asters, as they look pretty in combination with grasses. I have several different hardy geraniums in my driest spot. They are so resilient and some spread (fine by me, but you have to watch them!). Another jewel is Lychnis coronaria – it fills in small spaces and seeds itself, but can easily be uprooted if it spreads too much. It adds a splash of colour or light – I have both red and white ones.

  5. Hi Jason, I like Osteospermum for dry sunny spots, though we have to be careful here to pick the hardier varieties – the purple ones tend to be the hardy ones but looking at the ones I have in the garden, they’re not looking very happy. It’s just as well they take reasonably easily from cuttings.

  6. I also grow dalea and just added dropseed grass to my rain garden last year. It’s in a spot near the french well that gets water but drains quickly. It’s still tiny. Dalea wants a hot sunny spot with well drained soil. It will gladly take a bit of compost and needs to be cut back by half to fill out. It’s a slow grower that doesn’t like to be crowded by other plants. I planted mine as bare roots and it took a while to figure out that I didn’t plant them deep enough. I just posted a bunch of my favorite plants for dry spots, too. 🙂

  7. I don’t have a lot of dry, sunny spots in my garden. But there is one spot where I’m thinking of doing a planter full of succulents this summer. I can’t wait! Does the Geum need full sun or will it grow in partial shade? It’s a graceful plant, and I’m thinking I might try it. I’m a big fan of Goldenrod. So many people still think it causes allergies, but usually it’s the Ragweed near it that causes their problems. In any case, Goldenrod is an excellent cut flower, too. Great selections!

  8. Penstemon: so many varieties. Bloom seasons vary by species from early spring to full-blown summer. Vary in color from white/pale blue through purple, gold, and scarlet. Attract hummers. Some are semi-evergreen or have attractive rossettes that perisist through winter. Hands down… Penstemon.

  9. These are nice ideas for a planned sidewalk garden (between sidewalk and street) outside our place on Chicago’s South Side. I think the drainage is poor though so I might have to build it up a bit. Although this is supposed to be my “no-worries” garden! Whereabouts are you?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: