looking for ideas for street-facing flowerbed

jaypmnJuly 7, 2010

Hi folks. First I wanted to say I'm a big fan of this site. I've never been a regular, but there have been countless time a google search has led me here. In fact, I can't remember any other site that I regularly wound up on when I was searching for plant-related stuff. Thanks to everyone who participates and provides such a useful treasure trove of information.

Okay, on to my question. I have a little strip right on the curb that measure 14 feet long by 3 feet wide. The mailbox is in the center and the long side is adjacent to our driveway. Both sides taper off a bit on the ends. We pulled up all the sod up and put in a border of sunken blocks (level with the soil). We have a two-fold goal of having a nice street facing garden and avoiding mowing and weed-eating the tricky bit around the mailbox.

We want to put flowers and some groundcover in (sedum, ivy). The one thing that will for sure be going there are some irises that my wife brought from her mom's house before she sold it. They'll probably take up about 6 square feet of this area. The rest is up for grabs.

My concerns are that it's directly at the curb and we live in Minneapolis. We have long, hard winters and we're in zone 4a. We're on a residential street where they plow often, so most of the winter there's going to be a giant snow bank on top of this area. They don't really use any salt on our street, so we don't expect that to be an issue. But during the spring, the snow melt will keep this area the wettest for the longest of any area in our yard.

So I'm looking for suggestions and general tips on what to plant there. We're big fans of perennials, though we'll probably plant a few annuals at the tapered areas because one end is where people often drive off the edge of the driveway (*eyeroll*) and the other is where mower incidents are most likely to happen. I think those irises will be okay, since they've been at her mom's in South Dakota for 20 years and have done well when we transplanted them in our garden (had to stick them somewhere).

I'd like to avoid having everything bloom all at once and then just be a bunch of greenery the rest of the season. I'd also like to get some variation on height. I want to plant some flowy ivy that will spill over the curb. There's a yard a bit down the street where the guy has a TON of incredibly prodigious perennials right on the curb just like we want, so that makes me hopeful. Come to think of it, I should really just go talk to him... but sometimes I find I get into chats with him a lot easier than I get out.

Anyway, he has this ivy ground cover stuff like I'm talking about so we'll just copy that. We'll probably put some lilies in, but we'll want to keep the height down a bit to avoid overwhelming the mailbox. I'm also interested in a variety of different flower types. We have moles (and therefore, probably voles) but they left the irises in the garden untouched.

We were thinking of tulips, but I worry that the late snow pack, the abundant moisture and the possibly vole munching may be too much for them. Hmm, other random things we've considered is indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) and a peony.

The area has pretty rich soil from what I've seen. I had a soil report run a few years ago but I can't find it. I know it wasn't highly one way or the other, and the grass does fine in it. Once the snow melts, it's pretty well drained. Due to the city replacing the road and tearing up the yard, when they refilled it there's a few pockets that have higher-than-average amounts of small rocks. And every once in a while there's a small chunk of clay or two.

Okay, that's probably way too much. Wonder if anyone is still reading. :D Let me just close by saying we're pretty unsophisticated gardeners and tend towards the lazier options (as much as possible).

Thanks for reading!

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Oh, duh. I left out one of the most important things - light! It gets some pretty good direct sun in the afternoon/evening, but it's not full sun due to the trees on both sides of this north-south street.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 2:48AM
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sleepy33(5b KS)

Echinacea and digitalis are two that occur to me off the bat. Possibly shasta daisy, depending on how much sun. Rudbeckia. Maybe some oriental poppies. A hardy geranium. A hardy hibiscus. Hosta.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 3:39PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. My wife didn't go for rudbeckia when I suggested them. The shasta daisies might be a win, though. We have some foxglove in the backyard and so far I'm not a big fan. Maybe I could find a variety that struck my fancy. It appears to be a biennial requiring some help in reseeding, though, right?

The poppies and hibiscus are definitely a possibility. We already have a large stand of geraniums right around a stump in the back, so we might want to try something different.

But no hosta. Sorry. I hates 'em. ;)

(Oh, and I think any bleeding hearts would get burned. We have some planted in the northwest inset corner of our house and they love it there. This area would definitely get more sun than that.)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 5:16PM
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sleepy33(5b KS)

None of the foxgloves I've ever grown needed any help to reseed, but that may just be me. A few varieties are perennial, d. grandiflora and mertonensis come to mind.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:22PM
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What about some daylilies, yarrow, coreopsis, sedum, catmint, columbine....

The giant snowbank actually helps my plants overwinter a little better - it acts as insulation so you can actually sometimes get away with some warmer zone plants.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:41PM
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Thanks again for the suggestions. We MAY plant some lilies, but right now we already have a ton in different areas (the entire north side of our house is daylilies) so we may be lily-ed out. Possibly some pink or white asiatic ones. Good to hear about the snowbank. I thought that might be the case, but the lateness of it melting worried me. Last year we got a lot of snow and it wound up coming up to the bottom of the mailbox after plowing. Melted early, though.

I have some sedum that I'm planing on planting. My wife loves columbine so it's good to hear it would work out there.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 12:21AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Most areas, ivy is a pest that should be declared noxious and I wouldn't plant it. I would look instead at (I don't check zones, so you'll have to) pachysandra, epimedium, ajuga, or asarum. Or whatever else your local nursery has in stock. Sedums might be fine, not sure if it will be too wet for them.

Irises are interesting in a flower bed because of the way they spread. They aren't really good neighbours with other plants, unless it is something like shasta daisy that will insinuate itself anywhere it can throw a feeler, like into the middle of an iris patch. If you want low maintenance, you could do worse than just irises interspersed with shastas.

Irises and peonies bloom together for me (peonies go a bit longer), and then the show's over. Daisies bloom later. Visit the garden centre throughout the season to see what they have in stock for that time. But whatever you go for, look for the late-blooming varieties.

In addition, ground covers can become so packed that they suffocate perennials. So if you plant both, your maintenance includes keeping patches open for the perennials.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 12:21PM
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I'm 150 miles and a half hardiness zone north of you - and I don't plant my street facing boulevard simply because I couldn't enjoy it and I'm behind an old, dense lilac hedge anyway.

However, the U of MN extension offers a list of successful boulevard plants for The Cities (PDF format, can't cut and paste) - including daylilies, hostas, iris, lamb's ears, monarda, nepeta, peonies, phlox, sedums, Veronicas... none of what I have from the list suffers any from deep hard pack snow cover from Nov/Dec to Mar/Apr. In fact, extreme cold with no snow cover is much more deadly.

Do people park along your street? Would a boulevard planting suffer foot traffic damage?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 1:15PM
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Thanks for keeping the suggestions rolling, folks!

I really shouldn't have said "ivy". The thing I'm wanting to plant isn't really such a thing. It's a creeping ground thing but it's not ivy. I'll let you know when I can get by Bachman's and identify it (or ask the neighbor).

We don't mind a bit of work like thinning and culling, we're just trying to avoid things that are finicky and require you to do certain things at specific times every year (like you need to mulch this week, then pull the mulch off, then put in this kind of fertilizer, then water it this much, but not more, etc. etc.)

Sedums love it here, in general.

That sounds like a great document, duluthinbloomz4. Do you have a URL or if not, the title of it? I could probably track it down.

People sometimes park along the street, but almost never in front of our house and pretty much never in front of our mailbox (where this bed is surrounding). Also, we have strong curbs so other than the slightly overhanging creeper I mentioned, it won't be in the street. I expect the mailman will probably clip it every once in a while but that's okay, cause he's a nice guy. :)

BTW, I was just up north a couple of weeks ago. Man, those lupine were beautiful!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:56PM
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jay - I found it by Googling boulevard plants for zone 4 and came up with "The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites".

Don't know what happens here, but the sides of the road and fields explode with lupins.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 9:08AM
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Was it this?

Looking for that, I ran across this, which also looks really useful.

Just to clarify, this isn't a boulevard but just the street-facing (curbside) strip of my lawn that surrounds my mailbox. But yeah, the suggestions for plants in those documents are definitely applicable.

I've been up north a dozen times, and I've always managed to miss the lupines blooming. But they arrived at the perfect time for a friend's wedding. She had a of freshly picked lupine!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 11:00AM
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Okay, so I talked to the guy and what he has is Lysimachia nummularia (moneywort/golden creeping jenny). Yes, I know, it spreads. One thing that will help is that there's not a ton of water in this spot. Plus it's Minnesota. It will still try to get in the sod but I think we can handle keeping it busted back (especially with the three inch wide blocks to help form a slight obstacle). His have spread quite a bit in the non-grass areas, but they are co-existing peacefully around the other tall perennials (going on three years now). And if nothing else, there's always Roundup. ;)

The best part is he said I could take all the cuttings I need from his. So I'm willing to risk it.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 2:24AM
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Well, we took the plunge and planted a bunch of stuff:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Coreopsis (a sulphur-yellow variety called Moonbeam)
Gaillardia x grandiflora (an Indian Blanket variety called Arizona Sun)
Shasta Daisy (a little shorter "Snow Cap" variety)
Peony (Sarah Bernhardt)
Penstemon x mexicali (Red Rocks Beardtongue)
Aquilegia (Songbird Robin columbine)
Delphinium grandiflorum (Summer Nights/larkspur)
Delphinium (pacific giant/King arthur - only one very tall one next to the mailbox - it was just so beautiful. too bad about the short lifespan)
Phlox paniculata (White/Red Eye Flame)
Echinacea purpurea (coneflower)
Sedum reflexum
the purple irises already mentioned
a single bearded iris that we picked up somehow

There's still a few open spots so I'll probably pick up a two or three more perennials and call it done. I'm probably only going to plant one tiny area with moneywort just so I can see how it behaves in that area. Might save some hassle.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 4:20PM
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sleepy33(5b KS)

Excellent choices! You have picked some of my all-time favorites, particularly garden phlox and delphinium (though they can be a bit particular). Perhaps you might try a hollyhock or two at the back of the bed for some height? They would go very well with the phlox, delphinium, etc. They are a biennial, but super, super easy reseeders.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 7:07PM
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