Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Taking on the Parking Strips : Part 2

Parking Strips Header 2
Hello everyone! This post is the second post in what I've decided will be a 3-post series. I would have had this one done sooner if I'd planned on doing that from the beginning, but, I tried to shove it all into two posts, and quickly realized I just had too many photos...and the post would have been ridiculously, there you have it. On with the show!

Front Parking Strip From South
Starting where we left off, this pic is probably from June...things are starting to fill in nicely.

Anemanthele and Libertia
After a few people commented on it, I realized I never actually listed the plants used for this project, let's rectify that now! Here we have one of my favorite new plants over the past few years, Anemanthele lessoniana, along with Libertia perigrans...which, I realized as soon as I planted them, were a bit too similar to be used right next to each other. The Libertia was an impulse buy, however...I've actually decided that although I like it in theory, it just doesn't work here. I think you need a large-ish patch of them to really make an impact.

Calamagrostis Karl Foersterfront strip august  3292
Two garden stalwarts, Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and Echinacea 'Magnus'. I sort of go back-and-forth on 'Karl Foerster', thinking I would love that space for a "more interesting" grass, but 'Karl Foerster' is so beautiful throughout the seasons, that just when I think I'll replace it, it looks so good, so "right" that I love it again. It's just so valuable at providing structure and contrast in my garden. Of course, Echinacea I just love beyond all reason, so I always have some...they are so perfect, elegant, honest.

front strip july  3238
And of course, where Scott gardens, there will be Agastaches! In these front parking strips alone there are 4 different varieties of Agastche. Above we have both 'Golden Jubilee' and 'Purple Haze'.

acaena purpurea  1771
I just fell in love with this tiny groundcover last year, Acaena purpurea. Sadly, it wasn't super happy in my garden. I can't tell quite yet if it's where it's planted...or the dog pee. I'm leaning toward dog pee.

agastache blue blazes sunrise  2027
Another Agastache, 'Blue Blazes'. I planted some of these in my back yard two years ago, and last summer I found out that they get WAY bigger than I thought. I forget, sometimes, that here in Portland, things just tend to get bigger than they are supposed 20-30% bigger. I'm experimenting this year with aggressive cutting back on these, if they still swallow up their neighbors, I may have to move things around a bit.

eryngium yuccifolium  1838Molinia Skyracer
Here's a plant that was completely new for me last year, Eryngium yuccifolium, which has the awesome common name 'Rattlesnake Master'. I'd seen it in numerous Piet Oudolf plantings...and you know me, if Oudolf says jump, I say 'How high'! On the right is Molinia 'Skyracer', which I absolutely fell in love with after seeing it a few years earlier at Wind Dancer Garden in Salem. It looks humble here, but in mid-summer it erupts with tall, elegant stems of dark, almost-black blooms.

Muhlenbergia rigens and crocosmia
Another grass I tried for the frist time, and fell in love with last summer, Muhlenbergia rigens, aka Deer Grass.

Knautia Melton Pastels Sunrise
I enjoyed the regular Knautia macedonica in the back yard so much last year, but really like having some variation in coloring when I comes to was thrilled to find some 'Melton Pastels' last year. This is a crazy-tough plant and blooms forever. I'm hoping that with more sun in the strips, these won't get quite as tall as the ones in the back yard.

Panicum Huron Solstice
Panicums just may be my favorite family of grasses, depending on the day you ask me. Tough, dependable, beautiful. This is a new variety I tried on a whim, 'Huron Solstice'. You can't tell in this picture, but as the year progresses, it becomes a riot of color.

Panicum Northwind
Another Panicum, with a habit as different from 'Huron Solstice' as you can imagine. While 'Huron Solstice' is more arching and fountain-like, 'Northwind' is strictly upright. If you are looking for an alternative to Calamagrostis, give this a try.

front strip august  3296
Yet another Agastache, 'Desert Sunrise'. I love this particular Agastache...for its foliage as much as for its flowers.

schizachyrium blue heaven  1819
Another stunning grass, Schizachyrium 'Blue Heaven', which I absolutely adore.

Sedum matrona 2Sedum October Daphne
Lately, I don't seem to be able to have a garden without at least a few we have 'Matrona' and 'October Daphne'.

Parking Strip
As you can see, but the end of July, things had pretty much started to take shape. I can't take too much credit...things just seem to WANT to grow in Portlands mild weather.

front strip july  3237
As usual, it helps that our spring lasts until July, so plants have a good, long time to settle in before the drought of summer sets in.

Parking Strip Preview
Mid-July is such a great time here in Portland. It's usually not too hot yet, and everything is still fairly green and fresh. The days are long and the rest of summer stretches out before you.

front strip july  3262
Of course, the flip side to summer in Portland is that the rain just STOPS. No rain for 3 or so months isn't exactly ideal for most plants. Luckily, the drip system we installed makes watering easy. Since these plants were all newly-planted, I watered fairly regularly until about the middle of July, then started to taper off, watering only when something looked stressed. Generally, I'd water once a week or so...and this coming year, I'll probably only have to water every other week...perhaps less. Planting tough, drought-tolerant plants definitely makes sense in a parking strip.

Muhlenbergia rigens  2073
Here is the Muhlenbergia rigens again, starting to bloom...I just love it!

Punky Cat in Little Bluestem
Tall grasses are irresistable to cats, I think they are channeling their inner lion, just waiting for the next gazelle.

Agastache Pennisetum Sumac Geranium
I'm still not used to how quickly plants grow here in the PNW.

panicum huron solstice  2079
As summer wore on, Panicum 'Huron Solstice' started its show...merely a rehearsal for what was to come.

front strip august  3270
If there is such a thing, I'd say my garden typically "peaks" in August.

front strip august  3275front strip august  3278
While, in my mind, August is still high summer, the light definitely starts to change now...with morning and evening light having a warmer, mellower tone.

front strip august  3283
Even in these newly-planted parking strips, everything seemed to be rushing to bloom. Looking back at it, I can hardly believe that whole area was just lawn a few months ago!

front strip august  3300
August also marks the point at which the warm-season grasses start blooming, here we have Panicum 'Northwind'

front strip august  3301
And here are the impossibly delicate stems of Molinia 'Skyracer', which is almost impossible to do justice in a photograph.

front strip august  3310
While obviously limited in size, at moments like this, the parking strip garden succeeded in my goal of creating a micro-meadow.

front strip august  3315
Here, at the end of August, I'm going to wrap up this post, the next post will cover Autumn through spring, bringing us full-circle for the year on this project.

front strip august  3319
BTW, happy first day of spring!


  1. Sigh. You are so good at plant composition. I can't believe everything looks that good just a few months after planting. Quit making the rest of us look bad!

  2. You've done incredibly well with your parking strip. The planting is superb and well composed, and complements your house nicely. Love the shots from afar, showing the overall look of the strip in its prime. Looking forward to the next instalment, a period when grasses are in their element.

  3. Hi Scott,

    Happy first day of spring! :)
    I hope the weather is treating you well - here we had some rather wonderful sleety rain and grey skies...
    I imagine your garden is waking up nicely at the moment and am looking forward to seeing more photos of your parking strips! Loving your mini meadows... Now, there's an idea....

  4. Beautifully done (and beautifully photographed). In those small strips you can't use a lot of big bold foliage for contrast with all the small-leaved things, but the Karl Foerster grass, rising above the lower things, provides elegant structure. I know you want to use something different or new, but Karl Foerster will always have a place in gardens for a good reason! I like your plant choices and how they all layer together on both sides of the walk. Just beautiful.

  5. Scott, of course you can take credit for this, you dreamed it, planned it and did it.

    Well done and great photos to boot!

  6. Simply wonderful! Do you have to deadhead your coneflowers to get them to keep blooming until August?

    Agastache is my favorite genus... or one of the top five at least. :)

  7. Just gorgeous! You're inspiring me to get more adventurous with my parking strip...someday.

  8. So beautiful! It takes no time at all for things to fill in there. It totally doesn't look like a new bed. I really like the long shot photos of the whole house from across the street.

  9. Beautiful planting, perfect with the rest of your landscaping. I was very taken with your photography too. Love those soft focus shots.

  10. Wow. It looks great. Things really filled in quickly with a nice pallete of plants. It adds a whole lot to the front garden. I like that the sidewalk goes through a garden now, rather than in front of one.

  11. So beautiful! And when I got to the photo of the view from across the street I just burst out is such a happy garden!

  12. Did you just come up with "micro-meadow" or had you heard it before? Love it and its a perfect descriptor for what you've created!

  13. W0w, Scott, this looks fantastic. By the way, I also love using Agastache, though I too am bothered by how big they can grow, and will be cutting back more aggressively as a means of control.

  14. Great choices on plants. I love the Agastache also. Space is normally hard to fill up that quickly but you did it. Love the cat shot.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  15. Scott, I just love what you have done with these strips; it really links so beautifully with your garden. I have to admit that I have some misgivings about Calamagrosta 'Karl Foerster'; it isn't as drought tolerant as everyone says for me and there are long periods when it isn't earning its place, but then....... You have so many plants I just love, but much more than that it is the way you put them together. Christina PS still can't sign up for email of your posts!

  16. Hooray for you planting the parking strips! Love it. Love seeing more of your garden in the backed off views. You certainly have a great eye for plant composition. Someday I will take on the strip in front of our house but I am still working on the back garden. I will look to you for inspiration.

  17. Great design and execution! Just scrolling through these pictures is making me anxious for things to start growing again. I struggle with my garden that extends out to the curb (no sidewalk on my street). A better collection of grasses may just be the way to go. It's not full sun so some shorter varieties would be best. Looking forward to Part three.

  18. Hi Scott, it is amazing how quickly things grow here. You clearly did a great job with soil prep! I love how all the plants filled in and melded together. You should invite some landscape painters out to paint your gardens. They are worthy of the canvas. Cheers, Jenni

  19. WoW! So Pretty, Scott! Your neighbors are So Fortunate to see that Display every day!

  20. You deserve an award both for the stunning results achieved in the parking strip gardens and for the long shots of your landscaped home. This post creates garden envy at its most extreme - and, of course, you should be proud.

  21. I think this is the first time you have shown us a straight on shot of house and garden from across the street, and it is a treasure. I didn't even see it from that angle when I was there.

  22. This is great and your whole corner is amazing, Scott! This is probably a silly question, but did you have to ask permission to plant the parking strips??? Loving your corner of the world!! :-) Have a great weekend!

  23. I love it all, but especially those geraniums billowing out from the bank. I can't grow them. I've only seen acaena growing in the Argentine steppe, in hot, dry gravel and sand. Maybe it doesn't like the mulch, or wants more extreme conditions.

  24. Wow! The view from across the intersection really shows off the exuberance of your front yard. I love it!

    I also love your cat comment. I've thought something similar when I'm surprised by my neighbor's cat in the front yard. lol.

  25. Oh, my goodness, this is so gorgeous! As I mentioned in my comment to your previous post, planting my parking strip is my project for this year. The grass has been removed -- well sort of. The majority of it has been removed, but Bermuda is VERY INVASIVE and I am going to keep working on removing it until I have it completely gone. Then I will add compost, rocks and plants. So I am having to be patient for now, but in the end I will be glad I waited. But your post just inspires me and gets me even more excited to get mine planted. This year will be so wonderful to watch it grow without all the effort of last year, although I know the process of making the bed was fun too (except for maybe the grass removal, which is where I am at now -- ugh!) When I get discourage on my grass removal, I will have to come back to this post to encourage me to press on!!

  26. Your strips are gorgeous, and look really low-maintenance as well. I'm wondering if the Agastaches attract hummingbirds, and how they fare with the cat. I'm also enthralled with Agastaches, partly because of their variously scented leaves and possibilities for use as tea. I am starting 10 kinds this year, some of which I grew before, I'll have to see how well they return. And I'll have to do better with drying some for tea. I'm also collecting Goldenrods this year, I'll have to see if they are spectacular in attracting insects when blooming. I'm looking forward to seeing everything in bloom like in your photos, and how much different your strips will look the second year with larger plants.

  27. These photos of your gardens are beautiful and gets me ready for the season. It has been freezing here still and I am more anxiuos than ever to get outside. I always enjoy visiting your parking strips and have loved following how they have developed over the years. Looking forward to more!

  28. I'd say take all the credit in the world - it looks just fantastic. Your plantings are well considered, and are beautiful together. Looking at that photo with the street in view, I'm thinking, a bit of concrete crunching machinery and I can see it all marching down the street, first the hell strips, next the asphalt!

  29. That rattlesnake master is so interesting! And I love the way you installed the raised beds in your hell strip. What a smart idea! I can't even imagine peaking in August. In August here, we are all panting from the super high heat, just hoping not too much dies!

  30. The beds are gorgeous. Do you have a problem with pedestrians tripping on them? We have a lot of peds in our neighborhood.

  31. Absolutely gorgeus! Amazing plants and compositions indeed. I love the photo taken in front of the house. I would put a chair on that spot and just enjoy watching that scene.

    No wonder the cat looks so happy being a cat in that environment. Beautiful!

  32. So beautiful - and always fun to see the growth through the seasons. You've created a mini-prairie at the curb!

  33. Love your micro-meadow and its inner lion.

  34. Scott, I think if I had to name your garden, I'd call it JOYFUL CORNER. The front yard pic is particularly wonderful, I see your own version of "American Gothic" just waiting to be staged. I believe I just figured out next year's Christmas card you and yours.
    ;-) Cheers from Vashon. Warm regards, Tom

  35. bravo!! love the careful attention to scale, with nothing too squashed, which lets each plant's character come into focus.

  36. This really is wonderful article ! I simply love’d it !

  37. First rate Scott ! I've been working on my parking strips for years and they can't come close to yours !

  38. How incredible - I would love walking by your house if I lived in your neighbourhood. It is superb!!!!!!!!!!

  39. The plants are growing very well. I just love the Acaena purpurea as it is best for ground cover, lawn substitute, rock gardens, front of border in perennial gardens. This hardy perennial does not like to sit in water, therefore planting on on a slight incline or on a slope area if possible. Too much water can result in powdery mildew forming.

  40. I love what you've done there! The mini meadows are very inspiring.

  41. Hi Scott,
    As soon as I got to your blog and saw Part 3, I knew I had to come find Part 2. I just love your place! The curb area really is an extension of the rest of your yard. Awesome job!

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