Hell strip planting design

teckelhound(Z9 SF Bay)May 10, 2010

I am trying to make a design for the hell strip in front of the house. It is approximately 2'4" wide by 36 feet long. All current plants will be removed and we will start with a clean slate. There will be drip irrigation, but the plants should be drought/heat/deer tolerant. My list of top contenders are: phormium, lavender, nepeta, sedum, white gaura, yellow achillea, african daisies. Also two matching red crepe myrtles will be planted. Maybe a few boulders or irregular flag stones to add interest, and a place to step when crossing the street.

My question concerns how best to place the plants and how many in each grouping. The trees will be about 12 feet apart. Each grouping would occupy approximately 12 feet. I could make 3 groupings --for example, a grouping would consist (left to right) a couple nepetas, achillea, some creeping sedum, a lavender, a gaura, a phormium, 2 nepetas, then several feet of just African daisies. Then repeat the pattern? Is it better to change to order a bit for each group or repeat the same pattern? Add one different item to each, like a blue fescue or hen&chick?

Would it look better to instead have more plants in two groupings (either on opposite sides of trees or between the two trees), so the stretch of African daisies would be longer, and there would be say 3 nepetas, achillea, more sedum, 2 lavenders, a gaura, a phormium, 3 nepetas in each group?

The area is so narrow that plants can't be staggered much, the nepetas will look like they are in a row. Will this look okay or is there a better way? I'd love suggestions on how to best arrange them (before it was always weeds). The plantings here will be very similar to the opposite side of sidewalk as well, a strip that is the same dimension, bordered by a 18" retaining wall. This is my first gardening project where I had to do such a large area at one time. Suggestions please!

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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I don't think that bed is wide enough for the crepe (here in nc we call 'em crape)myrtles...unless I'm missing something?

While I usually eschew single culture plantings...why not do one huge swath of something spectacular...like lavender? If you want to vary it...vary TYPES of lavender? It would make a real statement...and it would smell fabulous...and people would be able to find your house with little-to-no problem.

36 feet of lavender. DELICIOUS.

Just a thought.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 9:43PM
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The issue with designing the garden bed is that how it interacts with the landscape behind it. If the strip is in front of a fence or hedge wall then it can stand alone as it's own entity, but if there's a lawn and house visible then it's part of a whole.

Another consideration is to go with something simple that you are not afraid to lose to dog's business or trampled by pedestrians, joggers, or people getting in and out of cars.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 7:05AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

That's the thing about hellstrips - they are functional spaces. Make space for the functions first, and your groupings may flow from that.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 12:59PM
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teckelhound(Z9 SF Bay)

My entire lot including house, garage and yard is only 50x100 feet, we are talking tiny California bungalow. The hell strip on either side of the side walk represents almost 30% of my entire planting space in the front of the house. Therefore I want to maximize the color, textures and variety of plants while keeping in the same scheme as the eventual rest of the yard. No parking on my side of street, so no one has to walk across the strip. Most other neighbors have cemented their sidewalk strip or have weeds. Whatever I do will be an improvement for the entire street to enjoy. I will be using mostly purple, yellow, grey as the primary color palette. So getting back to the original question I need help with is......Should I make several groups of these mixed plants (one or two of each) and repeat? Or, do I make a cluster of one kind, then a cluster of another, just once? I want the look of maximum variety but not have it be jumbled and hodge podge. SO many plants, so little space....

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 5:19PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If you don't want it to be jumbled and hodge podge then I think your best option is the clusters of each kind, more often called "planting in drifts." The only way repeated groups could have a tidy effect is if you have open space between them. This is why I thought maybe a pathway or some paved areas for getting out of cars would help suggest a layout.

But for making an effective design either way, evaluate your plant selection based on plant form and height and foliage shape and colour, not just on flower colour. Drifts of a variety of what I usually call green lumpy things (in this case green-grey lumpy things) is still going to look like an undistinguished mass - because in truth, most flowering plants flower for a fairly short period.

So select and organize the plants to get as much contrast as you can.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 9:50AM
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