Update: West Parkway Raised Bed

Last fall I did a makeover of the raised bed on the west side of our parkway. The bed was full of larger perennials and was a bit too big and wild-looking for something between the sidewalk and the street. My goal was to have something relatively low-growing and tidy but colorful and full. It also had to be self-reliant in terms of water and other codling. Many friends from the garden blogging community helped me get through the agony of choosing plants.

Parkway Planting
Parkway raised bed seen from street. Good plants here but too big and wild for between sidewalk and street.

Now the first season of this new planting is coming to a close. How is it working out? Overall, I’d say I got close to my goal, but I’m not there yet. In particular, it needs some additional elements to make it stand out more from the surrounding groundcover of wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) and the Orange Coneflower that sit between this raised bed and the curb.

Let’s walk through my plant choices one by one and see how they did.

Geranium 'Tschelda'
Geranium ‘Tschelda’


Geranium Renardii ‘Tschelda’. I like this plant! Both the flowers and leaves are somewhat distinctive from other hardy geraniums. It provides good blue color and texture in late spring and early summer, taking over from the bulbs. It also makes a nice edge, making a good start this year at spilling over the pavers that define the raised bed.

Geranium 'Tschelda'
Geranium ‘Tschelda’

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’. This is a good example of the high cost of being cheap. Because I bought only a small plug of ‘Shenandoah’, it was more vulnerable to the bunny attacks that occurred in late  spring. In addition, it has been struggling against being shaded out by its neighbors. It is currently just barely hanging on. I’m going to have to buy a larger plant this fall, which I should have done in the first place. A decent sized ‘Shenandoah would have given this raised bed more of the definition that it currently needs.


Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’. I planted three last fall, two didn’t make it through the winter. I’m guessing it is only marginally hardy here. Also, this is a replay of the problem with ‘Shenandoah’ – the one surviving ‘Little Bunny’ is overwhelmed by its neighbors and barely noticeable.  As above, I think I will buy some larger plants at the nursery this fall. Not sure if I will go with ‘Little Bunny’ or another grass.

Calamint, Sedum Matrona
Calamint and Sedum Matrona seen from street. The Rudbeckia are planted along the curb.

Calamintha nepetoides.  Great plant! A cloud of little white flowers that drive the pollinators mad with desire. It is both tough and lovely. Only thing is, it is a little bit too much of a dominating presence. it is hiding a little too fully most of the other plants that are done blooming. This may be in part because I crammed too many into the available space, a bad habit of mine. I think I will either remove one of the Calamints or try cutting them back in early summer. I won’t touch them now, for fear of provoking an Attack Of The Mega-Wasps.

Sedum 'Matronna'
Sedum ‘Matronna’

Sedum spectabile ‘Matrona’. The two that made it through the winter (one was lost) are doing great, in fact they look like more than two plants. These are the first Sedum I’ve ever planted, for some reason I’ve always avoided them up until now. Don’t think I’ll ever plant a lot more, but I’m glad I have these.  Only problem is if you are looking from the sidewalk they are a bit obscured by the Calamint.

Salvia 'Carradonna', Phlox Miss Lingard, Geranium Tschelda
Salvia ‘Carradonna’,with some stray Penstemon and Geranium ‘Tschelda’

Salvia nemerosa ‘Carradonna’.  This Salvia has rich purple color and an upright habit. It needs to fill in some more but I am happy with this choice. Just hope it isn’t smothered by the Calamint.

Phlox 'Miss Lingard'
Phlox ‘Miss Lingard’

Phlox maculata ‘Miss Lingard’. Very happy with this plant. A shorter Phlox (mine were about 2′)  with white flowers that come in mid-summer. Absolutely no problem with powdery mildew, and it does fine in drier soils. Known by the common name ‘Carolina Phlox’.

So there you have it. Any thoughts or suggestions gratefully accepted! Have you been evaluating any new beds lately?




37 Comments on “Update: West Parkway Raised Bed”

  1. Hey Jason,

    Looks like you’re well on your way to meeting your objectives. Admire your resolve with the grasses and know you want that texture among all the broadleaves but I’d punt. Bigger plants will probably bring out more bunnies??? The thin leaves of some of the new coreopsis would be a nice foil or do they get too big? In that location, I think you should reconsider a sedum. Sorry I don’t have a name but I have a dark leafed spreading ground cover type would give nice color echo and change of pace.

    About the unrestrained catmint, I’d wait until spring when they’re 3″ or so tall, get out a big paint brush and go to town with Roundup and get them back in control or out of there. Then put in some annuals until you plan something for the fall. What do you think about them apples?

    Good luck, buddy.

  2. I have Geranium Renardii , but the regular variety that has mauve flowers with violet veins. From the pictures, your ‘Tschelda’ seems to bloom more profusely. Mine is a shy bloomer but the foliage is so nice that I keep it.

  3. The white phlox and the salvia are my favourites – I am always surprised when I see white flowers that stand out and that appeal to me in other people’s gardens as I tend not to go for white in my own planting. I love sedums, but prefer the deep pink ones with pale green foliage. They stand out well all year, and the bees love them. I agree that the Calamint will definitely have to be divided/pruned, as it might take over completely next year! I have been choosing some new grasses for my rockery and this one is on my list: http://www.bluestem.ca/pennisetum-tall-tails.htm
    Might be suitable for your spot?

  4. Your garden is absolutely gorgeous! We have so many of the same plants, but my Ratibida pinnata is a bust for me. I’ve had it for about 5-6 years now and it is such a poor performer in my bed I’m thinking about getting rid of it. Maybe I’ll just move it to another location and see what happens. Also, the anise hyssop here only gets about 2 ft. tall. It is very striking in your garden.

    • Well, you must have very different conditions to have such different results with the Ratibida and Agastache. In gardening as in real estate, it’s location, location, location! On the other hand, you have so many plants that I cannot grow at all, like the Moonflower Shrub and Resurrection Lily.

  5. Love the geranium, phlox and sedum! Watch out for the rudbeckia too, I’ve got tons to pull out here so that I can plant new things like that pretty geranium. It all looks great, if your up for another post I’d love to see a broader view of it all together.

    • You’re right that I really didn’t include an overall photo, I’ll see if I can remedy that. I agree with you about “twee”, I think that is why I can’t get into things like rock gardens and fairy gardens. It’s not that the space is small, it’s more of a social convention that the strip along the street not be too overgrown – and there is a safety issue as you can’t block the view from the driveway to the street.

  6. I live in the Hell Strip capital of the world. Buffalo has the market covered. 😀
    But seriously, I do love what they do in Buffalo and most are more similar to what you are switching from. As an architect, I do see issues with these tall planting beds with safety, security and the legal issue of having your neighbors back out of their driveways and be able to see properly. Here is my all time favorite curb planting in Buffalo. http://orchardparkway.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/curbplanting1.jpg from a post I did called Taming the ‘Hell Strip’.

    • I like that curb planting, but it is the kind of thing I would plant more in the main garden. Not sure how large it is in relation to the rest of the front. Even though I’m trying to keep things lower, I’m still aiming for something that has some excitement. It will probably take a while with some experimentation.

  7. I applaud your assessment and I really like the garden. I have Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ and love it! Give it a second chance. You will be happy you did. I tried Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’ and it didn’t come back in SC!! If you want a smaller grass, try Nassella tenuissima ‘Pony Tails’ another nice one that you don’t need to do much with it…no trimming it back in the winter. I have lots of Catmint ‘Walkers Low’ and need to remember to cut it back in mid-summer. The bees love it.

  8. I love what you’ve done with your parkway strip and the assessment of the flowers you’ve planted. I agree with others who would like an overview shot, a kind of before and after. I particularly love the low growing white phlox. Very pretty. I have some gaps that could use some medium height color.

  9. Hi Jason, I think the unruliest of the plants should be the ones put right by the pavement. Along the short section we have, I’ve put tactile scented plants like lavender, rosemary and the agastache anisata so people smell them as they brush past them. There’s also a few Gaura “Whirling Butterflies” that I hope will grow into substantial plants and just look magical when in full flower and waving in the breeze.

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