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Mother of All Hellstrips!

Posted by jubilante 9,sunset 15/16 (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 6, 11 at 13:45

We're finally ready to work on curb appeal for our corner lot house and would really appreciate any ideas or "been there, done that" suggestions.

The aptly named hellstrip is easily 170 ft. I do not like rocks, lawn, agapanthus, or junipers (driving through the neighborhood these seem common)used in the strips. I could go for a combination of pavers/concrete and plantings. Small trees would be welcome as the sole tree will have to be removed due to sidewalk/street damage from roots.

We are in Monterey County,CA. Water is a concern, so minimal, if any, water in summer, once established, is a priority.

I think I'm just overwhelmed at the size of this project. You wouldn't know by this horrific yard, but we do like to garden. We have allowed the weed-infested front yard to die over the past couple years,so we (and the neighbors!) are anxious to get going!

If the hellstrips stump you, please feel free to offer suggestions for the rest of the space. We are thinking of expanding the small patio and maybe adding a stone wall across that area. I'm trying not to hyperventilate at the scope of the project...the cost of the project...and yes, that cheesy rock on the garage is on the "hit list"!

Thanks for any responses, they are really appreciated!



Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

I think you need big shade,evergreen trees,bush.I hope you like other nice rock too.You should avoid some flowers.

Photobucket


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

What goes on along this hellstrip? Do people have to get out of cars, jay-walk, wait for buses? Is privacy an issue? Is it a nice spot to work; that is, do you enjoy being out in that space or would you rather spend as little time as possible out there?

I like the rock on the garage :-)

KarinL


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

Thanks for taking the time to offer suggestions!

We live in a small,quiet,residential area that gets a fair stream of pedestrians--mostly adult walkers, some children, very few bikes/skateboards. No real privacy issues. Many in the neighborhood have a front patio area that looks "dining friendly" but I seldom see it used as an outdoor living area.

As far as upkeep: the raised beds and yard in the backyard is where most of our time will go. I don't mind the basics: trimming, raking, etc. I'm hoping mulch will keep the weeds down. We are almost empty nestors and do our own yards. The tuxedo ceanothus along the fence has done great with little attention other than a tad of water now and then and a bit of shaping. That is sort of what I hope for in the strips...something that will look good most of the year.

Showy flowers/color aren't important to me.
Lavender was one of my thoughts for some of the strips, or large penstemon.

I do feel like I'm form and proportion challenged when trying to come up with ideas for this entire area.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

Looking at the parched hills beyond your house instead of the neighbour's manicured lawn, I would suggest not to fight with Mother Nature - a xeriscape garden with native plants is probably your best option. So what would be your preferred landscape purpose and style within that constraint? What did you see that you DID like when you scouted other people's homes? Start planning your garden in the same order in which you would actually build it - the hard surfaces first (pathways, structures, boulders, water features, perimeter fencing/stone walls), then trees and bushes, then flowers.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 6, 11 at 23:01

You don't say whether you have irrigation to the area, which will make a huge difference as to what you could plant here and expect to do well on a low water regiment. I'd recommend using drip irrigation for the hellstrip and focus on Cal natives in combination with Mediterranean climate plants. I really like Dymondia as a drought tolerant walk-on ground cover as well as Myoporum parvifolium 'Dwarf Link's form. Either can do well with irrigation every.3weeks once established. Other useful plants to add might include coleonema sunset gold, dwarf aloes, grasses such as festuca glauca, leymus condensatus, tulbaghia violaceae, lavenders, succulents such as dwarf agaves, graptopetalum paraguyense, echeverias, aeoniums, etc.__


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 7, 11 at 2:20

I'd also suggest that a visit to Sierra Azul Nursery in watsonville would be enlightening, as they have some great display gardens that they only irrigate once a month. Their conditions would be quite similar to yours in Monterey. If it's in your budget, I'd still recommend you install drip irrigation for any new landscaping, even if you only use drought tolerant natives. Best time to plant is in late October into February using smallest sizes of plants if you want to minimize need to irrigate. __


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

Great suggestion about Sierra Azul. I attended a presentation at our local library by one of their staff, but haven't been there.

As the whole yard will be torn up, including the original irrigation system, we are really starting from scratch. I wondered if it was realistic to avoid including the strips--thanks for your thoughts.

This will be our Autumn into Winter project. We need to get going with the removal of more dirt, grading, and hardscape. Whew. We are currently removing the top 6" of soil in the strips as part of the crusade against kikuyu grass. Ugh.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 7, 11 at 11:22

I personally would suggest that removing topsoil isn't necessary with Kikuyu grass, it would be easier to treat with alternating applications of Roundup and irrigation to get regrowth and sprout weed seeds. If your existing irrigation system isn't old galvanized pipe, it's also cheaper to re-use it or convert it to drip. You can mark head locations with flags before rototilling and save it. I've designed new drought tolerant natives/succulent gardens to replace a lawn and reused the existing pop-up heads of a conventional lawn irrigation system, by switching the heads to 12" popups, and careful placement of taller plantings to avoid blocking coverage. If you're interested to see some examples, I've previously linked to my Flikr photos, two different sets, Domingo front yard and Lee Thomason Residence here.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

^^^^ What Bahia said! Go native.

Make sure that you don't plant anything that can block a safe view of the intersection. Your city probably has some restrictions on height of plantings within X feet of an intersection.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

The "what to do about the kikuyu" debate has been ongoing and legend in our household. We even found it between the concrete foundation and the carpet pad (about 16 ft of it) when a bedroom carpet was pulled. We have used Roundup, multiple applications at untold expense. Let's just say this weed has become the object of someone's obsession.

Thanks for the suggestions on updating the irrigation. Anything we can reuse rather than replace is great!

Someone suggested chitalpa trees. Does anyone have feedback?


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

The "what to do about the kikuyu" debate has been ongoing and legend in our household. We even found it between the concrete foundation and the carpet pad (about 16 ft of it) when a bedroom carpet was pulled. We have used Roundup, multiple applications at untold expense. Let's just say this weed has become the object of someone's obsession.

Thanks for the suggestions on updating the irrigation. Anything we can reuse rather than replace is great!

Someone suggested chitalpa trees. Does anyone have feedback?


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

Are you near the ocean or inland?

Ditto what others have suggested; xeriscape with natives and Mediterranean plants appropriate for your Sunset zone.

I can see Ceanothus and Cistus being used there. Depends what kind of look or style you want.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sunset zones for Central CA


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 7, 11 at 16:43

Chitalpa 'Pink Dawn' is a nice attractive flowering small tree, but not the best choice for fogbelt climates. I'd suggest Tristania laurina, Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark', or Acacia spp's as better choices. If you are willing to prune and train, Tecoma x smithii or Callistemon viminalis are very long blooming choices. Trachycarpus.fortunei can also be an attractive palm/street tree. Several of the Melaleuca's also do well as street trees near the coast.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

I've spent the last few days looking at neighbors' homes, nurseries, web photos. Not much inspiration from local homes as the vast majority still have lots of lawn, including the strips.

I think I've realized that so many of my favorite plants would need more water than I want to give. Letting go of my old ideal landscape ideas makes the yellow house, which I didn't mind, now seem like a mismatch.

I also have discovered that I really like green and white, as in foliage and white blossoms. I'm a sucker for varigated leaves.

It seems that many of the drought tolerant plants bloom in purple, bright yellow or red--none of which really appeals to me. I tend to like white with blue, apricot or soft yellow as accents, if any.

Are there pretty, interesting, drought tolerant plants/trees in white? I'm sure there are, I just haven't found too many!


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 12, 11 at 1:21

Not hard to come up with your own list, Sunset Western. Garden book has tons of relevant lists by type of planting season and color of bloom, etc. A garden of primarily white and blue flowering plants, possibly in combination with silver and pale gray or bluish foliage wouldn't be hard for me to hand a design client at all.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

For a white, low water, flowering shrub take a look at Cistus ladanifer. Some of the day-lillies also come in the softer colors you prefer.

There are also white forms of Penstemon. Sisyrinchium striatum is a plant with creamy white flowers. It will reseed. I have this in my border and love it - I like the form.
There are also white forms of Lavender.

If you like this sort of style I could easily see a kind of California cottage style using a mix of natives and Mediterranean plants.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

I happen to just be redoing my own hellstrip... and can sympathize about keeping the weeds down. I've been through this process several times... and I started with cobbles and other small bricks, which provided endless opportunities for weed growth. I replaced those, in the second iteration, with large slabs. In my case these were marble and granite off-cuts from a local countertop stone supplier (sink cut-outs, mostly). They were free... and shallow; I don't have a lot of depth to work with due to tree roots and the way the concrete base for a street sign was poured.

These have worked out really well, but I had neglected the area for a few years while a neighbour let his grass go to seed... oops. Now I have grass beds. And also, some of the groundcovers I'd planted between the slabs had done too well, had actually lifted the slabs and thus gotten past them to adjacent areas where the design did not call for them!

To make a long story short, I'm doing two years worth of weeding plus reviewing my ground cover selection out there and also (a) adding more slabs, and (b) adding a pot or two. Assuming they don't get stolen (sigh), the pots offer topography, focal point, interest even without plants, and easier weeding and plant control. For me, in other words, the secret to easier control is in the hardscape, and I think if I were you I would go in that direction.

I've been pondering your hellstrip as I do all this; yours being without all the constraints that mine has (besides street tree, concrete, street sign, risk of theft, lowlifes' garbage, and the need to get across it to the car, it also slopes to the street and to a neighbour's adjacent driveway). I think slabs, which you could get in concrete, could go a long way to providing interest, as would the addition of some large pots. Both additions would help keep plant roots cool and moist, especially if you open the bottom of the pots somewhat so plants can root right into the ground,

I think some arrangement like big square slabs placed on alternating sides of the strip with a wide channel between them for plants would reduce the linear feel by creating some lines across the hellstrip. If it were me I would actually try to get or make half-circle slabs with at least a 2-foot diameter. Placed alternatingly along the sides with the flat sides to the sidewalk or curb, the channel would become a wavy line... Pots could either interrupt the pattern or be part of it.

KarinL


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

Unless this is a comprehensive "let's get it done all at once" project, forget the hell strip for now and put your energy (thinking) into 1. soil improvement 2. irrigation 3. trees 4. shrubs 5. groundcovers/mulching 6. perennials

If you can't bear the hell strip, just plant some portaluca...(sorry, spelling blank....) moss rose and some tough little grass. actually flat geographically appropriate stepping stones with the ports. inbetween. I don't know if by "stones, rocks" you included stepping stones, but its a relatively inexpensive 'groundcover' and the moss rose is a nice, no water contrast. Very cost effective until you can create the dream hell strip!

Marie, popping in from the east coast, who has no business among the garden designers!


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

Just for inspiration, there are pictures of a hellstrip and some median strips from a garden walk in Buffalo on this blog. I don't think the person who took these will mind my sharing with you. I know, completely different climate, but nice to see what can be done in these spaces.

Here is a link that might be useful: garden in hellstrip


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Mother of All Hellstrips!

Oh, and you need to scroll down about halfway to see the pics of the hellstrips and median strips.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

WOW! Now those are gorgeous pictures!

All the comments are so welcome, thank you to everyone for taking the time to respond. I have been pondering the words of wisdom as I continue to look locally for inspiration!

I was wondering, if I decided that I need someone to help me with the plans, what sort of $$$ would plans be? Having recently put three kids through college (Cal Poly, UCD, and Cal!) we definitely need to be very careful with our limited resources.

In the meanwhile, I am doodling away with my ideas.

Thanks again for all the thoughtful information and ideas. They truly are appreciated.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

A lot of our local nurseries have designers who will draw up a plan for free (on certain special days) or minimal amounts. They charge more if you have them install for you. If you take your pictures and dimensions and share what your preferences are, they can come up with something for you. I would call around and ask if your places do that. Some area landscapers will also come up with plans, but they always want to install for you.


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

I think primarily they anticipate that you will buy the plants from them, don't they?

By the way I thought of a perhaps more practical alternative to the semicircles, namely triangles. You can get triangles by getting a stone yard to cut large squares in half on the diagonal. By the time your plants grow in, the sharp angles won't show. Of course you can get big circles cut in half too, I suppose, if you can get circles.

KarinL


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 16, 11 at 16:19

A planting plan for a residential project of your size might run anywhere from $800 - $2500, depending on who you hire. At the higher end you could expect some site design of hardscape layout, selection/specification of materials, a complete planting plan and list. If you require irrigation design, I'd expect to add at least half that again. Design fees can vary quite a bit depending on who you hire and their level of expertise. Most professionally designed and installed landscapes CA range up to 10% of the house value if they are more than just a simple planting plan and installation. Labor costs are most typically at least half the total cost here in California. A fair proportion of my own design clients here in the San Francisco bay area prefer to phase the installation into more manageable budgets over several seasons/years when contemplating a whole garden do-over, but will typically have a master plan done for the entire project upfront. If you need/prefer construction drawings that you're going to have bid upon and/or submit for permitting, it will also run higher depending on complexity or time to develop the complete plans. If you aren't doing the installation and purchasing of all materials yourself, I'd guess your front yard could range between $30,000. - $50,000 for the amount of area you're doing. Again, these are just a range, and aren't specific to a final design or based on specific design program elements. It ain't cheap to hire it out but hiring a landscape designer can definitely help you use your money more effectively, and give you more bang for the buck, and also help you tailor the garden design to your wants and needs. Good luck with your project, the Monterey area really has an ideal climate that allows for some incredibly diverse gardens with year round interest. _


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RE: Mother of All Hellstrips!

We used a nursery designer in the 80s for a place we had in Sonoma County and ended up with great results. The "bones" were good enough that the house still looks good even now, despite the rather shoddy neighborhood. The fee was $50 and it was refundable in product. LOL No such luck in this area, I've called the locals. Some have staff that do "some design" but none seem enthused about it.

Thanks for the reality check--and reminding me what good design and an overall plan is worth.


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