Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Taking on the Parking Strips: Part 1
Why is it that I always seem to wait to do posts on my big projects until the following year? Perhaps, it's because I like the drama of the big reveal, rather than spreading it out over a year. Regardless, I finally decided to do a few posts on our front parking strip, which we tore up and planted last spring.
Like pretty much every American house, ours has these strips of grass between the street and sidewalk. Affectionately dubbed "hell strips" and "parking strips", they are usually left mostly to their own devices, largely ignored by most homeowners. Here in Portland, like everywhere else, they are usually weedy grass, weedy gravel, or weedy rocks (do you see a common link?)
Of course, like most gardeners, I can't leave any amount of ground bare for long...and as I've filled up the rest of our tiny plot with plants, it was only a matter of time before the parking strips fell under my ravening gaze.
So, beginning last winter (in January or February) I started, bit by bit, digging up the hard, compacted sod from the strip. Every weekend, I'd go out and dig up 3 square feet of sod, break it up and cart it to the "holding area" in the back.
By the end of February or beginning of March, I had dug up almost the entire thing! While the soil in the strip wasn't great, it was still far better than the horrible, heavy clay that makes up the front garden...not fair!
So close to being done with the digging!
Once I had the sod removed from the entire strip, we framed out the borders, using the same method we'd used for the rest of the garden, using hinge joints and 2x6 pressure-treated boards. No, it's not going to last forever, but hopefully by the time they wear out, I'll be able to afford something a bit more long-term...or I'll have moved to my country estate ;-)
The nice thing about having the entire area dug up at once was that we could lay our irrigation hoses underneath the new paver pathway, linking the two beds. I can't tell you how nice it is to just attach a hose and let it run for an hour, knowing that everything is getting watered...and none of that water is going to waste.
Here is the new paver path, and the irrigation hose, which is buried underneath.
Now, all that winter, I had spent hours and hours coming up with plans for the parking strips...literally. Dozens and dozens of ideas...whenever I was bored, I'd turn my attention to the design. Of course, when it was time for planting, the plant went out the window, to a degree. Still, I stuck to my planned palette of plants, except for a few impulse purchases last spring (we all have to wedge those in, right)? For the most part, I knew I wanted to have mostly grasses, punctuated with perennials that are tough and drought-tolerant. I didn't want the parking strips to just be "better than lawn", I wanted them to feel like a real extension of the rest of the garden.
Gordon looks pretty delighted at the work.
Boots also shows his approval.
Here the strip is, mostly planted up except for a few plants I hadn't managed to procure at that moment (that's what the beautiful bamboo stakes represent).
And here it is from the other direction. You can see in this shot the narrow paver "path" we left along the curb side of the garden...hoping it was enough to allow people to get in and our of their cars...and avoid trampling the garden, if possible. One thing is for sure, parking strip gardens are TOTALLY at the mercy of your neighbors (and their pets).
Even though I still plan on editing the strip (well, and the rest of the garden), it makes the whole garden feel more "together" somehow, now that that ridiculous strip of ratty grass is gone!
Here the garden is last Memorial Day, in the next post, I'll show you how it progressed throughout the rest of the year :-) Sadly, this was the last BIG PROJECT we had on the slate...and now it's mostly editing. What about y'all...do you have any big projects you are planning for this year?
Posted by scottweberpdx at 4:28 AM
Labels: design, garden, grasses, hell strip, oregon, parking strip, pdx, perennials, plants, portland, sod
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I love projects; sadly I'm (I've) running out of space for possible projects except in very difficult (read expensive) areas. I really like what you 've done and I'm looking forward to seeing part 2. ChristinaReplyDelete
Thanks, Christina...it seems we alway save the hardest for last, don't we ;-)Delete
PS, how do I subscribe to receive new posts by email, I don't use readers. thank you, ChristinaReplyDelete
hmmmm...I'm not sure! I'll have to look into that!Delete
Scott: I only started reading your blog after you had done this project, and I thought it had been there for years! If this is only going to be year 2 for all of these plants, it's going to be fun!ReplyDelete
As you know I've got several projects planned. I can't imagine not having any left, but that would be nice. :)
Hahaha...well, although the "big projects" are done, I still have lots of tweaking planned. The hardest part is that I don't have much room to "shuffle" plants around as I move them.Delete
It looks very nice, Scott, the outside row of pavers solves the problem of people stepping on the plants when they get out of cars, unless they WANT to step on the garden strip. My current project involves defeating blackberry vines or weed grasses in border strips of my 2 acres by planting natives like Goldenrod or planting bamboo or removing barriers to mowing which is THE surefire berry deterrent.ReplyDelete
OMG...blackberries are the WORST! I lived at a place a few years ago where they were out of control...so awful!Delete
It really does tie the house, garden and strip all together as one unified whole. The sidewalk becomes an element, not a boundary. Nicely done!ReplyDelete
I am jealous, since here the town owns the strip, so it is not plantable by individuals. And with our snow problems in winter we couldn't do much anyway, as the plow needs space to roar by and the plowed load has to land on the strip. So I'll just come over here and admire your creative solution to this design challenge that fronts most homes.
Technically, that land really does belong to the city here too...but the property owner is responsible for its maintenance. It's definitely a possibility that the city could show up and just rip it all out some day...I just hope that doesn't happen!Delete
So lucky to have a parking strip to play with! Not only is a potential space to make your ones property look prettier, it's an extension to one's garden too! Looking forward to following your progress!ReplyDelete
Thanks guys...I will leave no bare space unplanted that's for certain ;-)Delete
I love the excitement of big projects & the feeling of success when they are complete. But, they sure are a lot of work. We seem to always have at least one big project going on. The next project we need to start is our back deck & patio. As much as I'm dreading starting that project, I can't wait for it to be finished.ReplyDelete
When we lived in the burbs we, of course, had the weedy hell strip. I never even thought to change it.
It's so true...we always seem to find SOMETHING to take up our time, don't we. Can't wait to see your deck & patio...it will certainly be a lot of work...but the payoff will be fabulous!Delete
I love it. Good for you to put the bedding frame in and walking stones so people will see where they can walk. Hope you get great comments from the neighbors about planting that parking strip, it sure frames the rest of your garden nicely.ReplyDelete
I've been really pleased with how well people have treated it...only a few instances where things have been stepped on. The biggest threats are generally from dogs.Delete
Wow Scott! Like Alan, I'd assumed that your p.s. garden had been there for quite a while. It's amazing how quickly things fill in in our climate!ReplyDelete
I'm mostly editing now. Like cutting down trees that I planted in the wrong places and I frequenlty think that I should remove whole sections of the garden that have gotten totally out of hand.
Isn't it crazy...I'm always amazed at how fast things grow here...and how much BIGGER they grow. Editing is so necessary, isn't it...that's mostly what I'm doing this year, as well.Delete
I love your blog, but do have one question about your choice of the wooden edging. Why not remove the soil about 5 inches down, amend it with manure and compost, and use the concrete edging of the sidewalk and curb. Wouldn't it be more visually pleasing, cheaper, move visually pleasing, less cumbersome, visually pleasing etc.ReplyDelete
Hahahaha...well, that's an option, but I wanted to "raise" up the soil a bit, to help with drainage...plus, there are pipes and cables buried under there somewhere...so I didn't want to dig TOO far down, and risk hitting something I shouldn't ;-)Delete
Your hell strip is now heavenly! I'm turning to edible landscaping, plan to rip out the bed on the south side of the house (plants will be relocated and/or donated to friends), amend the soil, and plant blueberries in the fall. Also contemplating English walnuts for the front yard.ReplyDelete
Thanks! Sounds like you're going to have berries by the bushel ;-)Delete
Great job Scott, I am all for taking over the streets! I bet your neighbors wouldn't mind if you started taking over the whole block!ReplyDelete
Hahahaha...don't tempt me!Delete
Great job there!
In general, when there's nice planting, people subconsiously avoid damaging it... At least this is the theory behind lots of wildflower planting strips in the UK. Areas which suffer antisocial behaviour see a dramatic drop once wildflowers are sown. So not so much of the fly-tipping, joy riding etc occurs. Quite interesting really, so I imagine your neighbours whether they intend to or not, do actually respect the plants... Of course the problem is in winter/spring when the plants are still dormant they can easily be damaged at the crown if people unknowlingly stand on them.
I'm looking forward to seeing progression photos :)
No big projects for me this year. Just the odd tinkering, although I aim to get the house on the market and move so I'll have to restrain myself!
That's exactly what I've found here too, Gwirrel, people are generally more careful than I thought they'd be...which has been a relief. Right now IS the hardest time...because things are just starting to come up...so it does just look like a patch of dirt! Good luck selling your house!!!Delete
Looks beautiful and a lot of thought obviously went into it. Question for you: How much, if at all, did peeing dogs factor in to your choice of plants? I'd love to do a lot more with my parking strip (currently just lilies) but fear that most plants will die there after being used as a bathroom by passing pooches.ReplyDelete
OMG, Kathryn...it's been mostly trial and error regarding dogs. Luckily, most of the plants are super-tough and just shrug it off...but I've had a few that just got burned by all the pee...and I'll have to find something else to replace them. I would love to have some Lilies in my parking strip...but I think they would prove too tempting for passers-by :-(Delete
You did a great job on that hell strip! I'm glad to see the local kitties approve. I hope future posts will mention exactly what plants you used. I do the same thing with bamboo stakes when I'm putting a bed together.ReplyDelete
OMG, Alison...I should totally have included the plants in this post...oops! Never fear, I'll give the run-down in the next post :-)Delete
I love the wood edging--it looks so crisp and would totally deter me from stepping in the beds. I want to plant my hell strip too, especially after seeing Maurice's talk on drought-tolerant plants. But first I have to level my lawn and work on the meadow!ReplyDelete
Yes..you definitely have bigger projects to finish before tackling the parking strips...can't wait to see your front garden take shape this year !Delete
Looks great. Here hell strips are parkways. So did you have to get permission from the city before you did all this? Here the hell strips actually belong to the city.ReplyDelete
They do belong to the city here too, Jason...but it's pretty common for people to plant them up...although it's entirely possible that the city could rip it up at any time :-(Delete
Great project. Hellstrips can be tough, with people trampling everything in them. Your neighborhood seems pretty mellow though, so there's probably some great photos in the next post.ReplyDelete
It definitely helps to live in a relatively quiet area...the more foot traffic, the more danger to the garden, for sure.Delete
That's good work, and fast results. I'm glad I also live where one can do what they want in the parkway, but mine needs to get redone...1998's Nasella was banned from the whole property, since it spread over everything. I think you accomplished and extension of everything!ReplyDelete
Indeed, there are few things as sad as the space given up to dead grass and weeds. Hahahaha...I've avoided Nasella for exactly that reason!Delete
I didn't realise it was such a recent project, the planting looked so mature and full when I saw it last summer...lovely!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Linda..just imagine what it will look like this year :-)Delete
You've made the parking strips into a beautiful extension of your garden!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Sweetbay...I love it!Delete
I love how your new project immerses pedestrians in your beautiful garden. Smart choice running the irrigation under the the pavers. I keep kicking myself for not doing that with mine. Nice job!ReplyDelete
As for future projects, I'm going to add a rain chain water feature to my pergola and add a poetry post to my front garden.
Thanks! That was my intention, to feel like I was walking THROUGH a garden, not just PAST it :-) OMG...you'll love the rain chain...I have one and love it!Delete
Too many projects to complete on my end. Trying to finish a self proclaimed "Texas Garden" compromised of rusty galvanized tin fencing and features, stock tank water features and planters. And an old brick paver patio. And I still have spring pruning to do. My body aches. Your project turned out very well.ReplyDelete
Oh man, sounds like you have your hands full this year, Greggo!Delete
What a transformation! And cute kitties :) looooove!ReplyDelete
Hahaha...kitties make everything better, don't they!Delete
Looks great! This is EXACTLY the same project I have slated for my garden this year!! I'm so excited. Starting tomorrow :-) I may have to wait a bit to put the plants in because somehow a nasty patch of nutsedge reared its ugly head in a small patch of my parking strip, so I need to wait until it starts growing before I can dig it out or nuke it. I want to make sure it is completely eradicated before I plant. I plan on using only short plants in mine and some boulders so that the plants on the other side of the sidewalk are not blocked. I agree...it makes the garden look bigger and pulls the garden together. I have cables galore running below mine, as well, so will need to dig oh so carefully, but it will be worth it in the end not to have to mow that strip or fertilize it or weed it. This is my last sunny patch to expand my garden...unless I get rid of every speck of lawn. Maybe someday. Thanks for sharing your project!! Looks great!!ReplyDelete
Yay for another Hell Strip garden!!! That's exactly what I was dealing with...it's the last bit of ground...and SUNNY ground, at that, so there was no way I was going to let it go unplanted! Can't wait to see your Hell Strip!!!Delete
great use of space wish I could graze!ReplyDelete
How is it that I've never noticed your rain chains and barrels? How long in the summer does the water last you?ReplyDelete
What a lot of work you put into doing your parking strips the right way, nice job! I've got several projects on the "to do" list. The hydrangea came out today (yay!) so now I need to rework that area. Then it's time to get rid of some lawn and re-edge the beds...and on and on...I'm already thinking about next springs projects too!
I think I got them last spring (or the spring before)...they are usually hidden by the plants, though...only really visible during the early spring! The water only really last for one good watering...rain barrels really aren't the most practical in Portland...because we don't get rain during the part of the year the plants are actually growing! Can't wait to see what you've done with the area that Hydrangea was in...it was a BIG area!Delete
Like others have mentioned, the town owns the hellstrip and sidewalks where I live. No sidewalk on my street but the town owns 11 feet in from the street. I've been gardening right to the street for years. So far no one has complained. Probably because like you, I created a garden visually appealing and try to keep it neat. My biggest challenge is finding plants that will take bone dry conditions during the growing season and potentially a few feet of snow cover and road chemicals throughout the winter.ReplyDelete
Perhaps one of my projects this season should be a slight redesign of that garden that includes the addition of some later blooming plants. Got to get them in early though so they have time to establish while the weather is still cool and we're getting regular moisture.
OMG...that's a VERY big consideration in areas that get snow, Sue. Luckily, here in Portland, we rarely get enough snow for plows to come out...so, also no de-icing chemicals to worry about!Delete
Can I just say 'WOW'! Please tell me you were hugging yourself after all that work, planning and preparation. When are you going to start your own garden design biz? ;) I have too many projects to count. It's overwhelming. But, bravo to you! It just frames your home and gardens so nicely. Cheers, JenniReplyDelete
Hahahaha...well, I was definitely grimacing a bit from back pain...but YES...I was so happy! It's always a bit overwhelming, when you move somewhere new, isn't it....you want to get SO MUCH done...prioritizing is so important...but it's still hard to come to terms with the fact that you can only do one thing at a time :-)Delete
1]Does the irrigation hose run beneath the city sidewalk. If it does, how did you do it?ReplyDelete
2] What software did you use to create the graphic garden design plan posted above.
3] Please keep updating us on the development of this part of your property
1) OMG...I wish! hahaha! I would have loved to do that, but didn't revel in the idea of digging under the sidewalks...so I just left a coupling open at one end, so I can attache a hose when watering, then detach it when done. 2) I actually used a program called InDesign...which isn't really a garden design program, just a Desktop Publishing application...but I set up a grid where 1" on paper equal 1' in real life...so I at least know I'm to scale! 3) Will do...the next post is in the works (just have to narrow down the photos) I'll have it up next week...fingers crossed!Delete
I love the wide shots you provided in this post, Scott. It really gives me a sense of your garden as a whole -- and yes, this new section is the perfect finishing touch. I look forward to seeing more wide shots as it continues to grow and fill in.ReplyDelete
I'm actually working on a huge project myself. I took out almost all the remaining front lawn (with hired helpers, otherwise it never would have gotten done), and now I'm planting it all up with deer-resistant, xeric, largely shade-tolerant plants, plus a small Berkeley sedge lawn. Exciting!
YAY for ripping out the rest of your lawn! I cannot wait to see it when it's done...your neighbors are SO LUCKY to have you!Delete
I've been away in Alberta and Minnesota...and then returned to more and more snow and then even more snow. So this project of yours is a special delight for me! It is sunny, warm and colorful, with your fabulous photos. It has a taste of "before" and "after" which is always a draw. It is imaginative and thoughtful. It has kitties too. I want to move to Rhone Street.ReplyDelete
I think "Before & After" posts are my faves too...there's something so satisfying about them...you're welcome to move here, anytime...there's actually a house for sale just a few doors down the street!Delete
I'm inspired by this post to narrow down my "to do" list to one big project. Where we live, maintenance of what's already here could easily fill up all available time. In other words, be careful what you wish for when dreaming of that country place. Having seen your strips in late summer, I'm flabberghasted by the quick results.ReplyDelete
OMG Ricki...having been there, I'm reminded of what a task it really is to take care of such a large property! Of course, the rapid growth is something I can't really take credit for...that's our Liquid Sunshine for you!Delete
That is definitely a show stopper. I'm sure everyone who walks by lingers to enjoy the flowers. I hope they are thinking," I could do that too"ReplyDelete
OMG...I hope ALL my neighbors do parking strip gardens!Delete
I love the fact that it makes your property look like it extends right to the street. Reminds me of those charming English cottage gardens - no one in Europe would waste an inch of soil with anything as foolish as a hell-strip. May your new garden serve as an excellent example to all North Americans that we can do much better than grass. Thanks for the colour and green - it's all mighty ice-y on this side of the world. BarbarapcReplyDelete
I think that's such a good pint, Barbara...for more Americans, space is not the luxury it would be in Europe. So many people here live in huge houses on huge lots...they take it for granted! I live close-in to downtown, so my space is at a premium!Delete
I admire people that do this in neighborhoods, bucking what is the typical landscaping. I see one neighbor has a hell strip planting though. Even though Buffalo, NY is the capital in hell strip plantings, it never extended to Niagara Falls. I was once going to be the trendsetter, but got so much flack from neighbors on digging out the grass in the front yard. So I thought I better not rile them further. I agree that it completes your design. I love that you are showing the process. You have to add if neighbors made any comments as you keep posting on it.ReplyDelete
It's so funny how something that seems to common in one place can seem totally alien in another, even when they aren't too far apart! I hope Niagara Falls catches the Hell Strip Bug eventually.Delete
Ahhh, that second to last photo captures what an inviting scene you've created around your home. If I lived nearby I'd find excuses to drive by regularly. Especially in the late afternoon light of fall when your grasses are large. I am planning a giant backyard project this spring, and hours have gone into the planning. We'll see whether I drive the landscaping company nuts with my hovering over their work!ReplyDelete
Oh yes, fall is definitely the highlight of the gardening year for me...can't wait to see your project!!!Delete
Can't wait for the next batch of pictures. I wanted to do the same to the strip at my house last year. I killed off the grass, err, weeds, and then realized my hose doesn't reach that far. So far, nothing but dirt (and garbage cans one day a week) this winter. Know of any good cactus or tumbleweed?ReplyDelete
Oh no...that's so sad, Ray :-( Still, don't settle for cactus...get an extension for your hose ;-)Delete
Great project and it looks excellent. I once thought I would be done with major projects, but not to worry, a garden is never finished, is it?ReplyDelete
Hahahaha...that is the greatest truth in gardening, isn't it!Delete
This looks great! Nice work! JeannineReplyDelete
I'm really impressed with this. In my neighborhood, the home owners don't actually own the land between the sidewalk and the street and major projects aren't allowed, although the ubiquitous mailbox garden is tolerated. So my ratty grass is there for good. Ugh!ReplyDelete
UGH...that is the way in so many places...and even though the city owns that land here in Portland, as well, they are very lenient of people planting there...luckily!Delete
It makes the front gardens extend to the street, an urban estate! Well done, and so Portland. I love it.ReplyDelete
That's exactly what I wanted, thanks!Delete
Scott, the project ties your garden together, no doubt. I'm envious of your climate and wish my garden would grow so well. My big project is removing ALL lawn from my front and side yards, including the "hell strips". I've hired Jocelyn Chilvers to prepare a design for me and I cannot wait to see it. I just moved into this house last October and the former owner only grew lush, well manicured lawn - no perennials or trees. It was the greenest lawn downtown Cheyenne and had an irrigation system on steroids to keep it green during a very dry summer. Can't wait to see Jocelyn's plan! BTW, the house to the left, did it originally have a huge porch that was later enclosed? I imagine seeing it restored if it was and it would be GRAND! CheyDesign GuyReplyDelete
OMG, I can't wait to see what you come up with, Chey!!! I'm not sure about the neighbor's house...I've always wondered what was going on over there ;-)Delete
Nice to see the genesis of this lovely complement to your other garden beds. It looked so established when we saw it this past summer that if you hadn't said it was new, I'd never have known.ReplyDelete
Projects? Well, I'm trying to muster the chops to design (and implement) a paver patio off our south-facing deck (and remove the last of the back yard grass in the process.) But I'm stuck on how much patio to have, versus increased garden bed space...I just need a bigger back yard!
It's amazing how fast things grow here, isn't it, Jane? I agree...a bigger backyard would be beneficial for us all ;-) Cant' wait to see what you end up with !Delete
Very nice. Love the "total look" picture. I'm with VW... I'd totally want to drive by your house everyday!ReplyDelete
I'd welcome you over for some tea :-)Delete
It looks very nice, Scott. I am still struggling with how to best handle my parking strip. I need defined access areas because people keep walking on my plants. This time of year is the worst because the flowers are not blooming and people think they are just weeds. Looking forward to what you have to say in part 2.ReplyDelete
That's exactly it, Michael...early spring is tricky, because it just looks like sticks and dirt!Delete
I lurk in your awesome blog, and I'm a gardener on the East coast. I recently found out that breadseed poppies and peony-flowered are the same as papaver somniferum, and it is technically illegal for gardeners to grow these in the US.
I would love to grow my own organic poppy seeds, but I'm afraid. Sigh. Currently you can use imported poppy seeds, but you are committing a felony if you grow your own. Or even if you simply want to grow poppies because they're pretty.
I created a whitehouse petition to ask the government to allow gardeners to legally grow these poppies. We're not all heroin addicts. :D I'd appreciate it if you could help spread the word and also sign the petition: Hi,
They're not native plants, but I recently found out it is illegal to grow breadseed poppies in my yard because of the drug laws.
A lot of people already grow these poppies, and they're the same as papaver somniferum, but I doubt they're all heroin addicts...just gardeners.
I created a whitehouse petition to ask the government to update the regulations to allow gardeners to legally grow these in non-heroin-distributing quantities.
I'd love it if you would sign my petition or spread the word: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/allow-american-gardeners-legally-grow-breadseed-poppies-also-known-papaver-somniferum-or-papaver/FY4FkP3d
I actually didn't know it was illegal to grow them for enjoyment...I've had some for years!Delete
I love it! I'm glad I made it here to see this transformation. I haven't kept up with blog reading lately. I can't remember what in my gardening caused me to think about your today, but maybe it will come to me. I just looked for you in my sidebar, because I realized I haven't been to your blog in awhile. It wasn't there! Awhile back, I was having problems, and had to take down my blog rolls and start over. There are a lot I had to leave off, but I like to see what's going on on your corner lot. I got you put back. I'm just tickled that spring is springing forward.ReplyDelete
So glad to have you back, Sue! I know what you mean, with getting busy with other things...and technical difficulties on top of it. Let's start off this new gardening year on a good foot :-DDelete
Would you mind listing the plants that you used? That would be so helpful!ReplyDelete