How to fill the bare strips along my driveway?

thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)April 26, 2006

Hello everyone. My house has two bare strips along either side of the driveway that are begging to be filled with some nice plants. I'm currently unsure of exactly what to do with them.

I'm given to understand that you should plan the design first, then choose the plants to fit the design. With that in mind, I'd like some ideas on what I should be thinking about here. Since I don't want to spend a lot of time on maintenance, my first impulse is to find something low-maintenance and just fill up the sides of the driveway with it. Would that be terribly gauche? I'd probably leave a few spaces for some annuals here and there.

When I consider which plants to use, here are some factors:

* Low-maintenance

* Nothing over 3' or so, or it'll risk obscuring some views

* Everything I currently have blooms between March and May. I'd like some late summer/fall color.

* Some kind of flowering evergreen shrub would be my first thought. Late-blooming dwarf rhododendrons?

* The north east-facing driveway gets direct sun for about 3-4 hours in the summer. Not much in the winter.

Please give me your thoughts on the direction I'm heading. The pictures below show the current landscaping.

The south side of the driveway is above. There's a nice flowering berry shrub there, a dogwood and some lovely boulders. The area near the sidewalk is currently underutilized, with just a few small rose bushes. The bare patch here is kind of short and wide.

The bare patch on this side is long and narrow. You can see the azalea blooming, and a couple of rhodies at the head of the driveway.

This is the view from the street. You can see the lovely Pieris japonica by the house.

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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

I would be tempted to fill them with a variety of things.

Spring bulbs for spring color, iris (repeat), sedums for late summer, maybe a small shrub with winter interest like a red twig dogwood, and some low growing annuals up front for all (warm) season color.

Nice Home!


    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 12:34AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I've never gardened in your zone, so I can't recommend plants, but I think I'd plant the rest of the bare areas with a groundcover to unify the whole planting, rather than add a bit of this and a bit of that.

A groundcover would be low enough to avoid obstructing the view of oncoming traffic, and would cover a large enough area to make an impact. It would also give you a ground plane and an area to rest your eyes. See the current thread about getting rid of the lawn.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 3:31PM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

Thank you for the opinions. I was a little concerned about the landscaping becoming even more of a hodgepodge than it already is, so I'm liking the idea of adding groundcover to fill in the gaps.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 11:50PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I keep wishing I had this kind of space to plant spreading conifers, and although the books say sun, I've seen junipers growing in lots of shade. Tsuga (hemlocks) and Yews can can also take shade, and there are nice spreading cultivars: Taxus bacatta Repandens, Tsuga canadensis 'Jedelloh' or 'Coles Prostrate'. Other spreaders that might work include Microbiota, Microcachrys, and even Cedrus deodora, several cultivars like Feelin' Blue.

Not much late summer colour from conifers though, although that doesn't seem to deter conifer addicts, which is starting to describe me. Cotoneaster might actually be a better bet on that basis for fall colour and berries. Gardens West magazine May 2006 issue (just arrived today, may also be available in your area) has an article on Cotoneasters.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 12:21AM
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I was thinking Cotoneaster as soon as I saw the pictures. I would also consider a narrow stone paving along the drive edge as a stepout to the passenger side of visitor cars parking there--the drop from the drive edge seems like it might be a bit unnerving when stepping out of a car too close to the edge. It would also provide a dithering zone to bleed the man-made surface of the drive into the more naturalistic plantscape. Between these stones may be planted a walkable ground cover, such as creeping thyme, mosses, etc. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 4:34PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I planted a grouping of Cotoneaster 'Coral Beauty' near the end of my driveway three years ago, because the spot is sunny, dry-ish, and too far from the hose to bother dragging it out there. The shrubs are thriving, and the berries are attractive for a long time in winter, but they catch leaves and debris that is hard to get out of the tangle of branches that are so low to the ground.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 4:48PM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

Interesting! I will definitely look into the Cotoneasters.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 6:21PM
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autumnmoon(6a/se ks)

Some creephing phlox as a ground cover would be nice... by your boulders you could put some of the red ground cover sedums... I'd plant some spring bulbs in there and maybe even leave a small space for annuals, for some color and to brighten things up.

I think one important thing you need if nothing else would be some mulch to tidy things up a bit.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 9:07PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

My first thoughts were of heathers and heaths that will flower in summer, fall and winter instead of spring since you mentioned your yard is heavy to spring bloomers. They are evergreen, low maintenance too.

There may not be enough sun for heathers though..However if roses thrive and bloom, heather would be fine.

Personally, I'd mix it up rather than plant one thing and I would plant ground covers to unify but then I hate bare dirt.

I'd be tempted to yank the roses since they are very cottagy and your house and rest of landscaping is classic Pacific Northwest. I'd add ferns and dwarf rhodies, azaleas, dwarf Pieris, there are several, Skimmia would provide berries (if you plant a male with females) and likes shade too. The Cotoneaster would be fine but I have seen them collect trash as mentioned. Ajuga is my current favorite ground cover but I know it is very common and some don't like it. I like 'Chocolate Chip' which is at least different than most. I have a lot of Scotch and Irish moss around my yard too but they want sun, they aren't really moss.

There aren't a ton of plants with summer, fall or winter blooms that really fit your house and current landscaping as well as the spring blooming ones I mentioned do but you may not care what I think!

You could do some ornamental grasses, my Oriental fountain grass blooms from July to November but it looks awful from January to May. Blue Oat grass or fescue are more evergreen than fountain grass is.

I love your house and neighborhood. Those mature trees on the skyline. Gorgeous. My neighborhood just has a lot of butchered Doug firs. Yours looks like the wonderful one my brother lives in in Everett.

What have you got planted in the rest of the yard?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 10:58PM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

buyorsell888 - There's a wonderful yaku rhodie that's just out of the picture on the south side of the driveway. Some enormous oregon grapes too.

To the north side, below the dropoff, there's a huge heather that's blooming right now, and all along the north side of the house, more rhodies. Huge, robust rhodies that are hopefully going to burst into flower any time now. :) (This is my first spring in the new house, I've had a few surprises from my new plants.)

Just out of the frame on the right of the "view from the street" picture is a series of ugly, overgrown Mugo pines that I am in the process of removing. I'll be posting another thread for inspiration on what to do with that space, once I've got it cleared out. I was surprised to find some rather nice boulders buried under those ugly mugos.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 1:35PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Yakus are wonderful aren't they?

If you've got enough sun for heather there are varieties that bloom other than spring. I have at least one in bloom 365 days a year. There are varieties that don't get huge, have colorful foliage such as yellow, gray or red too. Heathers are one of my plant obsessions....

There are Mugos that stay very small that would be evergeen and look nice. I personally like them when they are small ones. Blue Star junipers have great blue color but grow slow and stay smaller than many. I like them combined with heathers.

I believe you can prune the Oregon grape drastically by cutting the tallest stems to the ground to keep it more compact if it is too big. Not positive, I don't have any.

Is that a dogwood to the left of the driveway?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 10:06PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I could see massing some big billowing grasses such as Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Moudry', or Stipa arundinacea, along with winter blooming herbaceous perennials such as Euphorbia characias. Grouping some upright perennials behind for summer/fall color such as Verbena bonariensis could also give you a jolt of color.Foreground plantings of lower growing things such as Convolvulus mauritanicus or Euphorbia myrsinoides could also do nicely, or an interesting foliage plant like Juniperus conferta or Helleborus argutifolius.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 11:09PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

With the yellow cypress (Alaska cedar) so prominent heaths and heathers would be natural associates--if the soil is suitable for these. You could choose ones in both foliage and flower colors that went well the roses and so forth. Like related rhododendrons and azaleas, these have special soil requirements--commonly planted here yet many plantings in less than perfect spots have partial failures (stunted or dead individuals) evident.

Cotoneaster x suecicus cultivars (such as 'Coral Beauty') would soon overwhelm this small space and be arching out into the drive. Then there is the possible problem of the quantities of bees these attract when in flower, this can be a nuisance where there is walking or driving nearby. The color of their persistent fruits would also clash with the rose.

Another nice, lush low carpet besides the creeping phlox is Rubus pentalabous 'Formosan Carpet'. Covers the ground like scales. Main drawback from a maintenance standpoint is that stems are prickly, making gloves necessary for weeding--at least a little of which will have to be done indefinitely whenever planting any groundcover that isn't a couple feet high.

If you want to play up more to the rose(s), maybe add some more good companions/foregrounds for these are rosemary and lavender. Just be sure to choose hardier rosemary that won't go back if it gets below 15F, and disease resistant lavenders that won't rot out just as they are filling in nicely (tags mention which ones are fungus resistant).

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 11:24PM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

I think I will be yanking the roses as suggested earlier in the thread. They were just planted there by the previous homeowner when she was trying to spruce up the yard for the sale. They seem a little out of place to me.

I'm intrigued by the suggestions of the heathers, since the heathers I have seem to be doing really well in a nearby spot. I will have to look into the different kinds - I knew there were some less common varieties, but I haven't read much about them.

And yes, buyorsell888, that's a dogwood. It's just starting to bloom now.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 1:00AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Heaths and heathers are one of my plant obsessions. I have about twenty five crammed on my very small lot. I have recently mail ordered some exceptional ones from Heaths and Heathers which is up your way. 'Dark Beauty', 'Velvet Fascination' are two I just ordered. 'Tib' is a favorite that is fairly easy to find. I'm not big on the Mediterrean pink or white you can find at Home Depot, they get too big for me. I need to cram more in.

There are gray foliages, orange/red foliages, chartruse/yellow foliages in addition to green and they bloom in all colors of reds, pinks, purples and white at all different times of the year. Some get fairly large and some stay tiny.

Some low conifers mixed in are really nice too. I have Oriental fountain grass and Crimson Pygmy barberry in my heather bed too, plus heathers mixed in around the yard in all but the shadiest spots.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heaths and Heathers Nursery

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 1:03PM
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