More Garden Space for Me!

So I have some exciting news! You may remember last October I wrote about how the city forestry crew had taken down a dying maple on the parkway west of the driveway. It turns out the city will NOT be replacing that tree (something about too close to the driveway).

Hate to see a tree die, but this was an invasive Norway Maple.
Hate to see a tree die, but this was an invasive Norway Maple.

This creates a new space roughly 6’x12′ that is available for a new garden bed! Granted, the soil is somewhat compacted and is full of tree roots. But still, this new space is in almost full sun and will allow me to further my Prime Gardening Directive, namely:


Of course I’ve been fantasizing for months about what to plant there. I’d like this planting to complement the Left Bank Bed on the other side of the sidewalk, with mostly lower-growing, native plants. They should also be able to tolerate dryer conditions.

Right now I’m thinking of the following:

Prairie Smoke and Starry Solomon's Plume
Prairie Smoke and Starry Solomon’s Plume

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum). Feathery pink seed heads, low native groundcover for planting along the sidewalk.

Photo from
Photo from

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis). A fine textured grass about 2′ tall. I would use it to mark the east and west borders of the bed.

Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata).

Prairie Onion (Allium stellatum). Nodding lavender florets in summer.


Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). A short milkweed with orange flowers.

Prairie Baby's Breath
Prairie Baby’s Breath

Prairie Baby’s Breath (Euphorbia corollata). Small white flowers and good fall foliage color. About 3′.

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). This upright grass and the Prairie Baby’s Breath would be the tallest plants for this bed.

Bluestem Goldenrod
Bluestem Goldenrod

Finally, for the streetside edge, a mix of Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) and Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius), for a nice blue/yellow combination in late summer and fall.

All of the above are natives, though in the fall I will probably plant some species tulips for spring color.

Also, I wonder how the city would feel if I grew a vine up the lamppost?

So what do you think? If you suddenly had a stretch of parkway (or hellstrip, as it is also called) available, what would you plant?

67 Comments on “More Garden Space for Me!”

  1. Great selection of plants that you have chosen. That’s what I love about reclaiming the hell-strip: once you’ve ‘finished’ your own garden, you can claim extra space for more plants….after all, you have to maintain the nature strip, so why not make it enjoyable?

  2. That grass will look nice and the geum is one I would like to try here. I would also choose ground cover plants and perhaps grasses too, and definitely some geraniums and chicory as they grow so well in the wild next to roadways here. And maybe some poppies too.

  3. I am always fascinated by the fact that you are able to garden the ‘kerb strip’, in the UK it would be heavily frowned on if not actually forbidden. In Italy they don’t exist anyway! What will the plants look like in winter? It would be good to choose something that would stop it just being mud in winter or am I being ridiculous because it will be covered in snow?

  4. Great news Jason! All of your choices look lovely even though I am not very familiar with them – I trust your judgement to be spot on. We live in a narrow lane without a footpath and after our old cherry tree bordering the road was taken down, I filled the area with Crocus tommasinianus, that looks lovely in the spring but I wish I had been as bold as you!

  5. Your plant choices look charming. However, in Lexington, Kentucky, we are like “Houston, we have a problem!” Many homeowners and business owners are removing street trees and not replacing them, and we are losing our tree canopy. So, although you state that the city has some restrictions for replacement in that particular spot in your front yard, I for one, am on a mission for trees at the moment. Perhaps a small shade tree with the underplantings?!

  6. How very exciting. I love the selection of plants, most of which I dont know and yes why not plant a vine up the lamp.
    I remember when we were in San Francisco I was really surprised at the planting of hell strips, especially that one on the last day which all the tropical planting out the front. I have started to see the equivalent being planted up here in the Uk but mainly in London.

  7. What a great selection Jason, although most of your choices would not be suitable here in York.
    Unlike Christina we have no problems with verge planting here in the country.
    I wonder if you will leave the stump as I would – pity they did not cut it a bit more flush with the ground.
    It might not be within your own gardening philosophy Jason, but I would kill the turf with glyphosate, keep all that lovely fibrous organic matter in situ and just slit plant into it. Perhaps mulch over the top to hide the dead grass!

  8. No sidewalks in my addition (which means no curbs, which means few people park on the street, which is a good thing for snow plowing). Anyway, the city may not mind an annual vine on the lamp post. It could be one of those do-first-ask-permission-later things. I’m looking forward to how the new section turns out – I learn a lot from your plant selections and groupings.

  9. It is nice that you got to have all this time to think about what to do with your new space. Your choices look gorgeous to me. Lucky you to have some sun to work with. I don’t know what I would do with such a strip. I would have to think about it. I am going through an ‘ever green’ phase right now. These are what come to mind.

  10. What fun to have more space. There was an article in Fine Gardening a few issues ago about what worked well in close-to-road gardens (that have to deal with road salt, piles of snow, etc.). In my hell strip currently have daylilies and rose of sharon (that I’m trying to grow as little trees) but it’s on my list for redesign. I was inspired by the hell strip garden at David Culp’s garden when I toured it a couple of years ago. It was lovely and durable.

  11. I second the suggestion that you plant an annual vine on that lamppost until you’re sure the city will be OK with it! I wonder if you could do a shallow raised bed there, in order to work in some better quality soil and have less problems working around tree roots. Of course, THAT would be something you’d really have to check with the city about! Good luck, and have fun planning!

  12. This is awesome!!!!! I know the feeling of finding more space and how exciting that is!!! Couple that with a sunny spot and I would be through the roof!!! Grow that vine up the post!! Why not!! We have the ugliest electrical boxes on our street and people have really started get creative with plantings around them. Great plant selection by the way!! Nicole xo

  13. Like others above – how refreshing to read a post when I know absolutely none of the plants (the genus, but not the species). Very stimulating. We don’t have a ‘hell strip’ here – if I had one (being a very British gardener!) I think I’d plant euphorbias, hellebores, grasses (esp. Stipa gigantea) and bulbs – spring and summer – I like the idea of the crocus tommasinianus to cheer people as they pass! Go to it! It looks just grand to me (and give the annual climber a whirl … someone can only complain!)

  14. That’s an impressive plant list. The prairie dropseed sets my heart aflutter. I once had a hellstrip of wildflowers that stopped traffic. Then R took it over and planted ivy. If I had one now, I think it would be heavy on river rock, with the occasional yucca, dasyliron and some low grasses.

  15. Well, first I have to stop chuckling just thinking about how fast your wheels are spinning trying to plan this garden. I know you will get all kinds of suggestions on plants so I’m going to suggest you go to Pinterest and search ‘Fairy Houses.’ Maybe you could install a tall one that could be on a stake that you could take out before snow flies. Wouldn’t that add something to your beautiful garden?

  16. Have you thought about adding asclepias verticillata or monarda punctata? I added both to drier spots in my garden this fall. Deschamsia would be great, too. I’d love to see a vine climbing that pole but wouldn’t be surprised if the city threw a fit about it. Nepeta would thrive there, too. Mine grows next to an asphalt driveway and loves it.

  17. It is nice you have additional sunny space to plant. It may take a lot of care for a while though because the tree roots decaying will suck out a lot of nitrogen. Not to mention the compacted soil is probably very alkaline being next to the road and sidewalk. Maybe going up with new soil might help to get you started better. Are they going to grind the stump or just leave it?

  18. Lots of great ideas! We live on a corner lot on the sidewalk side of the street (sidewalks are only on one side in our neighbourhood) and have approx 150 feet of hellstrip. I have been plotting for years to take it over with plantings as it is nothing more than a sad assortment of weeds and very little actual grass.
    We also have height restrictions for planting on boulevards (as they are called in our neck of the woods) so everything needs to be fairly close to the ground. I’m thinking some sage, thyme (wooly for colour and also creeping), artemesia, lambs ear, various sedums and butterfly weed with crocus and daffodils for early spring.
    That settles it, I’m finally going to take the plunge even if it means doing so in 10-12 foot increments every year!

  19. Some nice suggestions! I’m actually converting my hellstrips to garden beds, so I’m very interested in this. I’ve done one of them to one side of the driveway this past summer, putting in some grasses, purple coneflower, sedums, lambs ear, and coreopsis, amongst others. Hopefully they’ll come back after the winter. This summer I hope to tackle the other side, but it’s much longer, so we’ll see. Yay for getting another planting bed!

  20. Hi Jason, you sound like a kid in a sweetshop. I can tell you’ve had you’re eye on that even before there was an inkling of a chance you’d be looking after it. The Prairie Dropseed looks particularly lovely, it’s so delicate. I can imagine clumps of that weaving between bolder plants. I’ve very exciting to see what you’ll do with this new space. There’s just the work of grinding the stump and removing the larger tree roots to do first?

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