Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hellstrip redesign

Back in the spring I dug up the tiny hellstrip area to the right of our driveway. There were two arbor vitae planted here when I bought the house.


After I removed them, I hoped the groundcover from my neighbor's hellstrip would spread here. Instead, grass popped up. And then all the neighbor dogs used that area as a toilet. I finally got sick of cleaning up poop and removed the sod, then amended the soil with crushed basalt and compost.


I banished a number of plants that I didn't love anymore to this spot, figuring they'd all die. It's difficult to get the hose to this spot and it gets baked in sun all day. I tried to make it as crowded as possible so dogs would be discouraged from pooping here.


Euphorbia 'Blackbird' has not done well in my back garden. It constantly fell over, like it couldn't get a proper root system going. Instead of throwing it in the compost bin I plopped it here. And you know what? It totally rocked this spot.


That's not morning dew, that's dog urine. It gets marked several times a day and it got almost no water after May. It's been stepped on, neglected, and it looks a thousand times better than it ever did elsewhere.


The main area of my hellstrip was never planted with any proper plan--I just threw down kinnickkinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and called it a day. The coastal strawberry covered everything and tried to eat the sidewalk as well. It sent out runners and rooted in the cracks of the street. It was so aggressive it apparently ate my camera because I can't find a single picture of my hellstrip. I am such a useless blogger.

Right before the freezing temperatures hit Portland, on a brisk day in December, I tore out the strawberries and replanted.


The plants include, from left to right, Pennisetum spathiolatum, Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley', and Euphorbia 'Blackbird' (I like it again!).


Agave pups will be worked in to deter would-be poopers.


In the spring, once I can find my Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' seedlings again, I'll work some of those in for brightness.


I'm also going to plant Grosso lavender, whose scent I like the best of all the lavandulas. I normally hate lavender as a landscape plant; in the NW it gets woody and awful looking after a few years and then people prune them into nightmarish shapes. To avoid this, I'll be treating mine like annuals and replacing them every year. I just love the way they smell and how many bees they attract so I'm willing to put in the extra effort.

I'm really excited to see how things fare this summer and how they jibe with the rest of the front garden.


I'm getting so excited for spring! I know winter just started but I'm already earmarking plant catalogs for purchases and thinking about seed starting. I've also got some wildlife upgrades planned (we're not getting a bear, don't get too excited) and maybe some more sod removal. What is life without sod removal?

24 comments:

  1. Meryl Rose PhillipsJanuary 8, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    I hate our hell strip. A couple juniper have already died and the mulch always gets washed away when it rains. I have no idea how to redo it, but still make it look like it meshes with our front yard. Yours looks fabulous though.

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  2. I hope you can keep the dogs out. The bane of my gardening is neighborhood cats who leave their business buried for me to find when digging. You know, your hell strip might be a good spot for Tetrapanax.

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  3. This is going to looks fabulous, especially in concert with the rest of the garden…just imagine looking down the sidewalk, bordered on both sides by blooms and billowing grasses…it will be wonderful. BTW…how are your Anemanthele looking? Mine look totally dead after the cold spell…they look sort of like hay!

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  4. I can't wait to see how it turns out! I may have missed it, but what are those small trees?

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  5. Mine look the same way. I have no idea if they're still alive. It's a bummer because I think I have 10 or 15 dotted throughout my gardens. They were supposed to unify!

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  6. Same here…I've added so many over the past few years…only one of the dozen or so I have actually looks alive…I guess time will tell :-(

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  7. You guys are more interesting than juniper--I think that's a blessing in disguise!

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  8. That Euphorbia 'Blackbird' looks so healthy in your hellstrip! One of the positive sides of winter is the sense of anticipation for spring. I have started making a wishlist of plants...

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  9. It looks good! If that Euphorbia can stand up to regular does of dog urine, I need to take another look at it too!

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  10. Jenni @ RainyDayGardenerJanuary 9, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Do you every rest? Just wondering ;) I love the new hell strip! Your last pic is really wonderful. I love the grasses in the background.

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  11. Love it! My county owns my hellstrip so I can't landscape it. Instead I just ignore it. It's so hideous... .

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  12. Now THAT'S the color Blackbird is supposed to be! Oh well, mine is not quite there, but still pretty. What? You still have sod? Where? And what will you do when that is gone? I laid branches of very prickly holly on a bed where cats were pooping and they changed their habits pretty fast.

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  13. Cat shit is the WORST. I swear nothing smells worse.

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  14. Those are bloodgood maples. The county made me plant them when I ripped out the arbor vitae.

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  15. Oh, that's such a good idea! I'd have to lay them everywhere--with the frozen ground I can see exactly where and how much the neighborhood animals have been using my yard as a toilet.

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  16. Greg told me last night that I sleep more than anyone he knows, for whatever that's worth. :)

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  17. Oh, that's a bummer. Are yours pretty wide?

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  18. Dayum girl, you never sit still and everything you do turns out gorgeous! I'm also looking forward to summer!

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  19. I also planted strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) on my hell strip, and it has behaved in the same way. I'm not thinking of tearing it out, but I was thinking of planting some taller plants (1-2') among the Fragaria. Your hell strip looks like it's going to be great. Thank god you took out those Arborvitae. As for the plants transplanted and now thriving in the hell strip - I guess some plants just thrive on abuse.

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  20. Do tell - the county can force you to plant trees (or specific trees)?

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  21. Yep. I made the mistake of reporting that I was removing the arbor vitae (I was following rules to the letter back then), which apparently counted as a "street tree," and someone came out, marked exactly where I had to plant the replacement trees, then gave me a list of ten species I could choose from. I'm glad I have them but it's unlikely I'd ever report something like that again.

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