Look At This Beautiful Mailbox Garden!

just_me_6(WV 6 - West Virginia-Tri State)January 28, 2007

I stumbled across this picture of a beautiful little mailbox garden. I'd love to duplicate it if someone can tell me the names of the plants shown here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Here's the Picture

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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Nothing too unusual here, just a bunch of common annuals, such as Cosmos, Sweet Alyssum, Coreopsis, and Calendula/Pot Marigold. They do all look good together in this photo...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 11:55PM
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I am quite reticent to encourage mailbox plantings. Generally speaking, the mail delivery people consider them a work hazard and a royal PITA. It is not unknown for mail people (some allergic to bee stings) to carry both a can of insecticide and Roundup in their vehicles just to address this occupational hazard.

I always have to question the motivation of people who feel compelled to foist their decorating in your face. Is there really no place left to plant flowers without forcing needless hazards and/or anxieties upon our mail delivery people?


    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:45AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

I am sure if you search the web for "mailbox garden plans" you will find a ton of hits. My favorite item from the picture is the mailbox itself.

Now to the point of my reply...I admit that I have created mailbox gardens before. Why is it that these types of gardens are so popular? It really seems like we (me included) have a hard time creating gardens that are not anchored to something...a fence...the foundation...a tree...or the mailbox.

I was biking through my neighborhood looking for ideas that I could use to create a bed to help separate my yard from the street. My neighborhood has a lot of houses with nice landscaping and plenty of flower beds but almost nobody plants anything out near the road. Well actually there were plenty of beds along the road but almost all of them were either mailbox plantings or plantings around utility boxes.

Is the point of a mailbox garden to hide the mailbox or to highlight the mailbox?

- Brent

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 12:30PM
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I think part of the reason people like to plant around mailboxes is to make mowing around them easier. Plus, as Brent said, it is a sort of focal point that makes the planting look grounded and not random.

I'll admit that I did a small planting around my mailbox at my old house. Alas, it never did well. My bulbs rotted, because that's where I always ended up with a huge pile of snow (at the end of the driveway). So, I never dared doing perennials, and since it was a lonely little planting, it was always the last thing to get watered.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 1:21PM
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"Is the point of a mailbox garden to hide the mailbox or to highlight the mailbox?"

I think the goal would be to integrate the mailbox into the landscape in a pleasing way to the homeowner, while eliminating maintenance issues of maneuvering lawn mowers, string trimmers, edgers, spreaders around the mailbox itself. Sometimes a gravel, or similar solution is appropriate, oftentimes not.

In my opinion, one season plantings should be limited to perhaps poolside or areas that may be snow covered for long stretches. The mailbox is generally in a more prominent location and if planted, should have year round interest. In the posted photo, the only winter interest I see, and the only perennial (I know the Cosmos & Alyssum usually self-seed), is the Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) on the left with the Cosmos.

I would use Euonymus 'Emerald Gaiety' at the base of the mailbox for it's evergeen, compact and viney qualities. The blue green leaves with white margins go really well with other colors and in the fall and winter, those margins turn pink in sunny areas. Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln') would also add winter interest, if not buried under snow.

An excellent perennial ground cover/edging plant is Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, commonly called Leadwort or Plumbago. Cobalt blue fowers from July to September (at least in my zone 7 area), the leaves turn a very nice red in the fall. Since it emerges quite late in the spring, I always plant Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) usually 4 or 5 to 1 for fragrant spring flowers that multiply year to year. I also like to use both species crocus and giant crocus in areas of early spring visibility. A clump of daffodils will provide a larger spring flower. Annuals could be limited to perhaps the Cosmos and Alyssum with the Russian Sage. In the fall, ornamental kale/cabbage can provide color til the temps drop below 20 degrees or snow cover.

A planting like this would provide perennial, low maintenance and four season interest. I have used these plants literally by the thousands, and they have proven themselves over and over again.

Anyone allergic to bee stings needs to be very cautious, but including my many years of professional gardening, the only stings I've ever received were walking barefoot on my father's clover enhanced lawn when I was a kid, disturbing an unseen hornet's nest while pruning a client's Juniper and picking up my opened soda unaware a yellow jacket was sharing. I've worked in very close proximity to bees doing the same, and was never bothered. I remember sitting under a Crabapple in full bloom at TR's Sagamore Hill home with hundreds, if not thousands buzzing away and not a one paid the slightest bit of attention to me. Of course, again, if you and/or your delivery persons are allergic, or just have a fear of bees and their relatives, plant or pave accordingly.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 2:17PM
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littledog(z7 OK)

I think the idea behind planting around mailboxes is that since it's someplace you have to be six days a week, there's no reason why it can't be attractive. At least, that's why I planted a few Jonquils on the bank up and behind my mailbox, and later allowed wildflowers like Black Eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Butterfly Weed & Yarrow to establish themselves. It's just for pretty.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 8:07PM
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So in other words, we are to abandon design in favor of decoration. Hmmm...

Brent unwittingly gave one of the key indicators of this distinction: "It really seems like we (me included) have a hard time creating gardens that are not anchored to something...a fence...the foundation...a tree...or the mailbox.

Quite simply, when your gardening efforts remain wrested by perimeter paralysis, you are merely decorating.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:03AM
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So, IB - what would your solution to mowing around a mailbox be? Just curious...

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 12:26PM
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Mailbox gardens are one of my biggest peaves. This is only my opinion, and my intent is not to offend anyone, but the general purpose of landscaping is to focus the eye to the positive aspects of the property. I have never understood why people insist on drawing attention to the unattractive aspects of their property.

If the intent is to get the mailbox to be less obtrusive in the landscape, perhaps consider painting it the same color that the main part (not the trim) of the house is painted. Then, as you move the flowers, shrubs, etc. toward focal points of the property (front walk, front door, fences, trees) you will find that the mailbox seems to disappear.

If you MUST plant flowers around your mailbox, please also consider increasing the size of the bed to include small shrubs, perhaps some stones, or other items that will provide winter interest. Also consider balancing the weight of the mailbox planting by planting similar gardens on opposing corners of the yard. This balance of plantings will also give the overall yard a very anchored appearance. The height of the mailbox can be imitated with a birdhouse on a pole, birdbath, gazing ball, or anything else you might create in these other gardens.

I don't mean to be a landscape snob, just my two cents.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 1:09PM
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Irene... great question! However, perhaps in actuality, it is the wrong question. I don't have alot of time right now but I'll at least provide a partial response.

In many ways, if you look closely at the photo, you will see examples (from a design standpoint) of exactly what you should be avoiding. The thrust of your concern seems to focus on ease of mowing. Circling a growing area with a bunch of jagged little rocks makes mowing and trimming virtually impossible without a lot of tedious hand work. I strongly believe that good design should focus on decreasing needless, repetitive inputs of labor. This example does not do that. In fact, if you will look closely, there is a fair amount of crabgrass blooming in the bed; especially between the rocks which have created an abomination to keep trimmed. In truth, this example has increased the difficulty of mowing around the mailbox.

Returning to design, I have to ask very basic questions. It is clear that decoration has been added to a mundane object of ubiquitous utility. Is that the goal of your landscape  or, has a goal even been considered? To my way of thinking, I wish to develop a welcoming ambiance to my home which both lures and guides you to my front door. Why would I you to linger at a damn mailbox? It certainly seems counter to any reasonable objective. If anything, I want you to get past the mailbox, not dwell upon it. To follow that line of reasoning why donÂt I decorate my electrical utility box and gas meter as well? Perhaps I should take this practice to the absurd extreme of decorating and drawing attention to the exhaust stack of my furnace as well.

Certainly we must keep this in context. The end of the world is not nigh. Certainly no great harm has been committed against society. The owner of this example has managed to inject a bit of color into this world  and that is generally a good thing. However, integrity demands honesty. While this attempt is what it is, it should behoove each of us to strive to do better. Is this example the best that design can offer? Clearly not. Can we do better with clearly defined goals in mind? Absolutely!

Got to goÂ


    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 1:21PM
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I have to say, I don't have very strong feelings about mailbox gardens, one way or another, before we start. ;) When I first planted around my mailbox, it was in fact to try and make mowing easier. To that end, I put in brick pavers, and inside that border, a row of small rocks (salvaged during house construction), then the plantings. The brick edge was to be an edge for the mower, although it didn't end up working as well as I had intended - crab grass did end up getting in, too.

As for the example - we haven't seen it in context. We don't know what the rest of the site looks like. Someone who put that much effort into decorating a mailbox may have done the same with the property, and for all we know, it could be part of a series of focal points that lead up to the front door.

Oh, and I have seen many attempts to hide utility boxes that end up drawing more attention to them, which I'm pretty sure wasn't the original intent. Fortunately, I don't have any in my front yard to worry about. However, I do have to figure out what I want to do about my mailbox at my new house. Ironically, my parents offered to replace ours (since it is a bit rusty) as a housewarming present. But, I had been so busy worrying about other things that I haven't gotten around to picking out a new mailbox yet! Ok, part of that is also because I haven't seen many I really like - the plastic ones are ugly, and most metal ones are, well, mundane. And no, I don't want it to be a focal point.

And back to your post - I suddenly feel like I've fallen into a discussion of the Vienna Seccession. ;) Yes, sometimes decoration is decoration for its own sake, which I think (imho) can be an important aspect of design. I think part of the challenge of any design is to balance the details with the massing/bones/structure - you need to have the overall proportions right, but a great design can get killed with the wrong details. And sometimes great detailing can make a mundane form into something fabulous.

hoping my rambling had some points of interest...

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 2:44PM
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I had to look up the Vienna Secession--thought it was something like the Defenestration of Prague, which brought hilarity to history majors in times past, and maybe still does. The V.S. was news to me, and interesting to read about on Google--thank you for mentioning it.

I think the mailbox garden shown is delightful and cottage-y, and perfect for a house and garden of the same style. A rural mailbox is often the first thing you see as you approach a property where they are required. Ideally, they should blend with the landscape and architecture of the house and not jump out as a jarring element. But they are a welcome to visitors and pleasant for passers-by so there are worse things in this world than flowery mailbox gardens.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 4:50PM
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bizydiggin(7 OKC)

I was torn on having a mailbox garden until recently. Our neighborhood is about 20-30 homesites all on acre lots. Everyone has brick mailboxs. The area is all new construction, we were they second family living in the neighborhood. Needless to say, all the houses are pretty spread out, and there are a lot of construction vehicles moving around. Recently, I noticed that someone had hit our mailbox with a vehile and jolted it about 1/4 inch off it's foundation, even shattering a couple of the bricks at the base. I can't help but think that if I'd had a garden there, they might have actually seen my mailbox BEFORE they hit it and saved me A LOT of money!! My new mailbox will have raised planters on both sides...

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 1:01AM
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There's no reason a mailbox can't be a very attractive part of the home and garden. It servers a utilitarian function, sometimes even a social one. It's not something that necessarily needs to be hidden, disguised or camouflaged although sometimes that might be the best solution.

In some neighborhoods I work in, it might be the only hardscape element at the street other than the driveway, and some people like to show a little of their style, or wish to make something for others to enjoy.

Although it's a very common mistake to create UNWARRANTED focus for the mailbox, I don't agree mailboxes PER SE are to be hidden or ignored. Function first, APPROPRIATE aesthetics next. It can be a fine detail, as much as a properly designed tool shed or bird feeder.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 1:54AM
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So now I ask: What about addressing the downsides? ÂAnd this is one of the primary problems with decoration as opposed to design. Do we just ignore the fact that we have actually made the task of mowing worse? Do we also just tell the postal people to stuff it if they donÂt like it? Do we just continue willy-nilly plopping plantings to and fro without concern to the balance of the landscape? If this area is so important to decorate, why are we content to have it displaying color probably less than six months of the year? And finally Is this really the best we can do?

I believe that good design  as opposed to decoration  takes all of those issues (and many others) into consideration and addresses them. Design is a thoughtful process, not an impulsive activity. Certainly there are great numbers who enjoy looking at that photo. However, this is a forum concerning itself with design and it is my belief that we should not lose sight of that fact.

A number of the above responses have borrowed design phrases and misapplied them. This is a planting of pretty flowers and not much more. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as long as we donÂt attempt to bestow properties which do not belong.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 9:00AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

So this particular mailbox garden has design problems. That doesn't necessarily translate to others without the stupid edging.

My little planting of annuals around the mailbox posts has made it much easier to mow. I'm the one who mows, and I know. It's introduced a bit of hand weeding, but it really isn't that bad, and there is no hand trimming of the grass around the edges. Since it is planted in relatively low growing annuals, it doesn't interfere with the postman at all. As for it being empty for much of the year, in general mailboxes tend to be quite close to the road, and the road is the natural habitat of snow plows. Usually, this time of year, the entire garden is buried under more than a foot of snow and ice. Anything permanent planted that close to the road is in immiment danger of being plowed up. In bad years, that even includes the mailbox post itself.

As to whether or not this is the best we can do, we await your thoughts. The expressed design criteria are attractiveness and ease of maintenance. The plants will have to survive whatever hazards come with being next to the road.

The snow is supposedly coming on Friday.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:03AM
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Thank you, Mad Gallica. :) I wrote a whole long post that disappeared when IE crashed on me, and I don't feel like re-creating it!

And, Ginny - Lol on the Defenestration of Prague. I remember learning about that in high school European History...

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:37AM
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In addition to what Bahia identified, looks like there might be some nepeta (or would it be Russian Sage as someone mentioned) and a cleome or two in there. This mailbox and its companion planting is rather charming - sure beats a ring of marigolds and dusty miller planted a foot apart.

While I can and do appreciate good design - and you'll get an awful lot of theory about good design on this forum - I'd tell "just me 6" to go for it. After all, aren't most of us just trying to create something we consider beautiful in our little corner of the world?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 4:27PM
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Charming is exactly what I thought of when I ran across the photo of this cheerful little mailbox garden! I certainly don't claim to have any talent for design. I'm just a person who appreciates beauty in its many forms . . . especially beauty in unexpected places. I'm going to try to recreate this little garden next summer and when winter comes again and the flowers are all gone,well . . . I'll just build a whimsical little mailbox snowman who can hang out through the cold months.

Thanks to those who let me know what kind of flowers to look for for my little garden!

Just Me

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 8:12PM
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soundgarden(z8/ New Orleans, La)

I think it looks cute! Obviously they were going for a certain feel because the mailbox is painted to look like a house with little flowers around the bottom. I've been working around flowers covered with bees for 3 years and I have never been stung. If bees are a problem, you can always spray the flowers with something to keep the bees away. I'm sure there's a nontoxic concoction that you can mix up that bees don't like.
I say - to each his own! My yard was a hell of a lot easier to mow when it was a big green square, but I'm more than happy to let my husband spend the extra time going around the knicks and crannies of the garden beds.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 5:26PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

Whew, am I glad my mailbox is on my porch, fastened to the house. I saw the perfect solution to the mailbox dilema. The mail box is on an old riding mower. The family drives it to the edge of the drive in the morning, and drives it back in the evening. This was done because they live on a very sharp curve and they were tired of losing mailboxes to bad drivers. Or the basball bat vandels. Country kids wanna have fun, too.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 7:17PM
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My Mom lives in a retirement mobile home community with no grass and wanted me to paint her plain white mail box with fuschias and vines. She's got the area "planted" with large tubs of timered self watering plants and flowers. It looks attractive and dresses up her space and makes her happy.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 6:08PM
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Lest this thread get contorted into something it is not; I think may be important to clarify a bit. The point of my original objection was not to create two sides of an issue but rather to cause thought. I am not against mailbox plantings  I am for thinking. I am also for believing that average people have the ability to create above average landscapes.

It is easily within Joe and Jolene AverageÂs abilities to avoid the common design blunders that we see repeated time and time again on this very forum. A necklace of rocks creating never ending, high maintenance woes is but one glaring example in the featured photo. Remove the rocks and the planting is much improved  pretty simple stuff. Good design is largely just the application of a series of Âpretty simple stuffÂ.

One of the Grand PoobahÂs of modern landscape design, Thomas Church, in his book Gardens Are For People, states right up front:
"Landscaping is not a complex and difficult art to be practiced only by high priests. It is logical, down-to-earth and aimed at making your plot of ground produce exactly what you want and need from it

I get concerned when I see postings stating: "My yard was a hell of a lot easier to mow when it was a big green square, but I'm more than happy to let my husband spend the extra time going around the knicks and crannies of the garden beds."

I am firmly of the opinion that these are the kinds of issues where good design can play a role. These are the kinds of problems that visiting this forum should help you learn to both solve and avoid in the future. Blindly following along with the herd, assuming that landscaping and/or gardening requires extra time spent mowing and trimming is a shame. I often lecture on very simple ways that Joe and Jolene Average can implement just a little bit of design and, in fact, reduce their mowing and trimming. I am firmly of the opinion that good design should dramatically reduce (not increase) the need for repetitive maintenance chores.

Creating knicks(sic) and crannies is easily avoided with just a little design forethought. As but one example: I always recommend that the DIYer lay out their new beds with a lawnmower instead of a garden hose. Quite simply, if you canÂt mow it you will probably have to trim it. Which would you rather do? I recommend avoiding tedious trimming largely because it typically never gets done! I simply place the edge of my beds on the edge of the marks made by my lawnmower as I guide it along an easy to maneuver path. If I canÂt mow it, the bed gets expanded. Simple? Yes! Coincidentally it always winds up looking better as well. A major component of landscape design is problem resolution  and avoidance.

*** BTW. I think that the above posting by lesdvs9 is a wonderful idea.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 5:23PM
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