Plant those Parking Strips!

West Parking StripYou don’t own it but are usually required to ‘maintain’ it:  Those areas between the sidewalk, which you also do not own but are required to maintain, and the curb or street.  We here at Highland Garden House Bed and Breakfast in Mount Vernon, WA are blessed with two strips about 100 feet long each and 3 to 5 feet wide.  One is on the West side and one is on the South side of a southwest facing corner lot.  Brutal for a lot of plants but with a thoughtful choice of greenery and rockery can make the property appear larger than the plat map says it is.  Our platted lot is 84 by 100 feet, but the sidewalks and parking strips add about 15 feet on each side, so the lot looks and feels the full 99 by 115 ft when the parking strips are planted and become an extension of the rest of the street-side yards!  The ‘visual appeal’ of the property is enlarged.

Parking Strip WestI feel that being able to see your plantings from INSIDE the house is more important than only letting everyone see them as they walk by or zip by in their cars, like foundation plantings.  Why not plant so both needs are covered?  The parking strip is like a ‘public garden,’  so don’t be alarmed if some of your flowers walk off!  I do not plant anything that may appeal to children that think that it is a cutting garden, free for the taking.  Shrubs, short and tall grasses, short evergreens, ground cover dianthus, euphorbias, rocks, etc. are my favorites.  I also incorporated a small rain garden into the southwest corner garden that channels water that flows down the sidewalk into a dry rock bed and allows it to slowly seep into the adjacent planted strip. (In the photo above you notice that the neighbor across the street has also planted her parking strip; this adds a very nice feel to this portion of the block.)

Southwest CornerWhen we bought this property, these strips were just green grass in the Winter and brown, dormant, grass in the summer.  I had some knowledge of xeriscape plantings so decided to choose drought tolerant sedums, grasses and shrubs to dress up these strips. I also am looking to control the height of the plants, either by choosing plants that are never more than a few feet tall or that are up to 8 feet tall in the fall, like Miscanthus ‘Zebrinus,’  but are cut to the ground each year in the late winter. I usually water newly planted plants the first summer and then let them find their own way after that.  Here in Northwest Washington State, that is enough for most drought tolerant plants to make it on their own.  They NEVER get watered after the first year. Our ground is saturated to 100% of holding capacity in the winter and slowly dries out in the Summer. I practice ‘tough love:’  after the honeymoon is over and the second summer is on, you are on your own!  Some don’t make it, most do.  We just move on.

I never buy plants at full price; if you can shop the sales, discount racks and late in the season bargain racks, you can score lots of perfectly good plants at 50 to 90% off their regular retail price.

Here is another short article on parking strip planting.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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