the bane of my existence - what to plant in driveway ribbon???

lovetorenovateFebruary 8, 2010

I live in a historic district... the board has to approve renovations - and they love 1920's style driveways - so when I did a large scale renovation 2 years ago - I put one in...

Well, I'm so sorry I did. It's the biggest pain. The driveway is long, narrow and extremely shady. I have a horrible time growing any grass in the ribbon area (have put sod down 3 times now - no luck). I have a dog that also like to tear up the area too. And on top of that, my mom as well as some of my friends, can't seem to keep their tires off the middle - so it gets tire treads in it.

I'd considered putting in fake grass. It's a bit expensive and I'm wondering how it'll hold up to the extreme leaves in the fall. I'm open to considering mulch, stone, or some other ideas. I think pavers would look nice and match much of my hardscape - but I think it'd be too expensive - but if that's the best choice, maybe I need to suck it up :-)

Any ideas???? It's 2.5 ft wide and about 75 feet long.

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I plucked some bugleweed (ajuga something) from my mother in law's and planted and its done great in shade between the house and a big ash. Mine gets occasional foot traffic but isn't exactly driven on by cars though.

out in the middle of the yard I tried some in full sun. It seems to prefer mixing in with the grass and doesn't die when ran over by my riding mower but does dry out.

It flowers nicely and does spread fairly well. If one of your neighbors has some you can dig some up and move it over saving some money at Lows.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ajuga (bugleweed)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 7:21PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Dwarf Mondo Grass or one of your local Carex species would probably work well here, and both are tough plants for shady locations, and will fill in densely to suppress weeds.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:12PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

Pachysandra would look great and do well in your shady area.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), as already suggested, is what I'd recommend. Readily available in plugs in Home Depot/Lowes as well.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 7:05AM
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Any flat, shade-tolerant ground cover would work if you can keep the dog off it for a while.

Wild strawberries and violets?
Creeping thyme?
Ajuga reptans?

Digging it out and putting down crushed rock gravel, then a polymer bonding agent might do the trick.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 11:45AM
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I ran some numbers here based on the suggestions. I've got 225 sq ft of space to fill. Spacing dwarf mondo grass (which I agree would look nice) - means I need close to 3600 plants. Online at a discount retailer for bare root plants - they are still close to 75 cents a plant.... so all told, close to $3000. That makes pavers look cheap!

I saw some green rubber mulch online... I think I like the idea of something green in there - is this crazy? Artificial turf is looking more feasible too - a piece the size I need would be under $1,000.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 10:04AM
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Try pricing out something that will spread like vinca minor or the above suggestions. You don't need such a rigours spacing, as with time (i.e. years) they will fill in quite nicely.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 10:40AM
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Dwarf Mondo grass is less vigorous and less durable than the straight species Mondo grass. You are also much more likely to find free or cheaper regular Mondo. The difference is the height. It would be fluffier unless you decided to mow it.

Are you near the coast by chance? Crushed oyster shell was a common driveway material back in the day. You may just be better off lowering the soil level and filling it with a white gravel that will grey in no time or oster shell. The dog won't dig in that near as much.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 10:42AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You don't need to - and in fact you shouldn't - fill the whole area with plants from the beginning. Plants want to grow, and they need space to do it. It's kind of the tricky part about landscaping. Whatever you plant, whether ground cover or tree, will initially not be sufficient to meet your needs, then it will be perfect for about 2 years, and then it will be too big/too thick, and you'll spend your declining years pulling the stuff out by the ton and cursing the day you planted it. What's not to love?

If you want a plant, my personal style would be to basically mulch the whole thing with shredded wood from a tree-cutting service (should be free) and, through it, plant about a dozen or two plugs of your plant of choice - I'd go with ajuga. As the mulch rots down, the ajuga will spread... you may have to renew the mulch before the ajuga grows in.

Once it grows in, you'll be grateful to anyone who drives over it.

I'm not sure what to do about the dog aspect, except to sweep every day or two. Again, that problem will be solved when the ajuga grows in. You might protect the area with pegged-down chicken wire or something to start with, but I'm out of my depth there actually. I have cats.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 6:45PM
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First let me say the drive way looks great! I wish I could install that. I agree with karinl. Plants want to grow, so give them some space.
For what it's worth, have you considered lilly of the valley? They have a great scent, which would be near your door and will fill in there nicely. They like part shade and will fill in the space over time.
I think you have a great oppourtunity there to make it really shine. Your just to close to the project. If you were on vacation walking in a historic neighborhood and saw that drive way, a thousand ideas would come to you.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 11:49AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

You might want to investigate if flats of Dwarf Mondo Grass aren't available in your area as well. I would guesstimate that you could plant the 75 feet of strip with a dozen mud-flats which contain 64 plants each flat. Wholesale prices for these flats is only about $20 each here in California. My experience with Dwarf Mondo Grass is that it would take about a full year to completely fill in this area, but once it does, it is very tough and able to take the occasional driving upon without harm, and grows plenty thick enough that it would resist dogs digging it up. It may actually be even faster to fill in in hot humid summer locations such as yours; we stay relatively cool in summer here so don't see exponential growth of heat loving plants.

Toe encourage fastest growth, you would want to water it well during dry periods, and give it fertile improved soil and regular fertilizing. Once it has filled in, it needs little care, and has held up very well without any dying out or need for dividing after over 10 years of growth in gardens where I have used it as filler for 4 inch wide strips between large 4 foot square concrete pavement slabs here in California. I do occasionally use a lawn mower or weed whacker on it to trim it back down to 2 inches tall and to get fresh new foliage.

You might consider covering it with chicken wire and secured with landscape metal pins used for drip irrigation or jute erosion netting to keep your dog from digging it up before it has filled in. The chicken wire would also tend to protect it from tire damage before it has filled in.

One last thought on whatever plant you might choose for this driveway; if cars are actually parked over this area on a regular daily basis, plantings, no matter how shade tolerant are not the best way to go.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 12:20PM
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What about oxalis...most species thrive in shady spots (oxalis oregana comes to mind) are lush, handsome and basically bullet-proof once established. They also flower sporadically throughout the year...and some are pretty much evergreen (depending on your zone).

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 12:35PM
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I'd suck it up and put in the pavers.
Life's too short to put yourself through more aggravation
trying to grow something there.
Besides, the area isn't that big, really.
Just alot of cutting.
It will be great in the fall for the leaves.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 3:17PM
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On your other post, you said you have children. Lily of the valley is toxic, so that might not be the best choice.

Pavers would look nice and stay in place better than gravel. Also wouldn't be a problem with the dog or the kids. Might make it easier for other drivers, too :)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 6:18PM
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echoes_or(Zone 3)

I would use stepable herbs like Thyme. You could do a variant of a mosiac by using varigated, limey colored, green and wolly.... Make a wonderful pattern and they are ok with being driven on and just think of the smell when they were.... Love the driveway.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 4:42PM
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Boy, it'd be good if you didn't have to resort to artificial turf in your historic driveway.

I'm assuming the area is pretty shady, so the herbs aren't likely to do well, and they typically are even more expensive to acquire in large quantities.

I like the green groundcover look. Dwarf mondo grass gives a great refined, "southern" look with brick and stone. I haven't found that it spreads as rapidly as I would like, but then my town has a lot of summer drought, and it may be that if I watered it more, it would. Still, you have options about how to space, and whether you get really small plugs or the larger 3-4" pots in flats (I usually cut mine up into smaller plugs. Vinca minor spreads faster (you can assist by continuing to layer and root the growing shoots), but of course gives a different look (taller and bushier).

Another option is a combination of pavers and mondo to take up space. You could consider a line of 12" pavers, maybe set on the diagonal, down the middle of the strip, then fill in with the groundcover, which is happy growing in narrow bands. Maybe it would look more tacky, but the addition of the groundcover tends to upgrade the look and give it some "age".

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 11:08AM
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You might want to reconsider gravel. Plants of any kind aren't going to hold up well to driving on and dog-digging. Plus, that dirt looks hard as a rock.

This solution might be what you're looking for:

They're basically pavers, but you can plant small plants or shade-loving grass in the holes (fill them 3/4 with dirt), and it will grow up and mostly hide the paver. So, it looks green, but the plants don't get demolished the first time a car drives on them because the car is supported by the paver. I dont know how much they cost, but I've seen them and they look pretty good.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 1:35PM
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maozamom NE Ohio

I purposely added a planting strip to our driveway last summer so that I could plant different low sedums and hens and chicks. I love the look already and I'm looking forward to it filling in.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 3:51PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

You should be able to get flats of dwarf mondo in 2.25" pots for under well $60/flat of 32 plants...and that's retail. I know that the garden center where I work will cut people a good deal if they are buying serious amounts of a single cultivar.

I really think DM would be your best choice for plants...I have found ajuga reptans less than reliable in NC in the winter. My DM looks awesome.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 7:08PM
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What about some variety of mint? It's invasive and would quickly fill in the area. The concrete would keep it from spreading. If it gets driven over it would bouce back.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 11:38PM
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slimwhitman(5b Kansas City)

I was just reading this thread for the first time. It is almost a year old. What did you end up doing? how has it worked.

If you are still undecided, I would abandon any type of plant alltogether. plants just do not hold up to car traffic. I would go with a nice contrasting paver...probably a red clay brick that would match your house. I have also seen some done with large river rocks set in a mortar. That can look amazing.

I built a new ribbon driveway last year and used turf. It has done great in full sun, but struggles a bit in those few spots where visitors cannot stay on the ribbons.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 5:26PM
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slimwhitman(5b Kansas City)

Example of the river rock...

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 5:40PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Slim, I like the look of that driveway a lot. I'm against putting grapefruit sized rocks along the edge though. It makes for a good place to twist your ankle when stepping out of the car in the evening, especially for visitors.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 12:21PM
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Ok, this post is years and years old... but I ended up with artificial turf. And ti's been great. It's green, a very nice contrast to the concrete and pavers. The dog likes it. From the curb it looks like grass. Holds up well to all the leaves - and clean up we need to do all fall. Occasionally someone will notice it's fake grass (typically only landscape architect friends) and moan about how awful that is... but really - it's been good.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:31PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Would love to see a picture. So glad the artificial turf worked for you! I am considering it for an area our tag team pups have turned into a barren wasteland-right next to the patio no less. Sigh.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:52PM
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Thanks for posting this! We're going through this as we speak and have just sent for samples of the turf. Any tips for installation?

    Bookmark   on Tuesday at 9:47AM
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