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Hellstrip – or Curbside Garden

Carload of plants
Carload of plants including divisions from Heath Garden to Greenfield

Now that I have planted Greenfield hellstrip I can make the official announcement: we are the proud owners of a small house with a small yard in Greenfield. The house has garden space on the south side and a rectangular back yard, but there is only a small front yard plus a hellstrip, which a polite person might call a curbside garden. Once it is planted.

The house does come with a few small plantings of lovely perennials, but essentially we are being given a blank slate to design a whole new garden. Where to begin?

I don’t know about you, but when I am in a new space, even a temporary motel room on vacation, I have the need to mark my space. The result in a motel room can be pretty messy, but the result in a new house is achieved differently. For example, the living room and dining room in the new house were respectively bright yellow and sage-y green. Perfectly fine colors. Was I happy? No.

So to mark my space I enlisted a young friend to help me paint those two rooms. Eva painted the living room a slightly different shade of sage-y green, very similar to our Heath living room, while I painted the dining room a glowing peach color. When I look into that room I feel like the sun is shining even when it is not. I have marked my space and the house begins to feel like home.

The yard is small compared to the cultivated landscape around the Heath house, but it is still too large to handle without a lot of thought and lots of work. I needed a small space to help me mark this landscape as my own. The hellstrip was the answer.

Hellstrip begins
Hellstrip begins

Here in the countryside we don’t have hellstrips, but they are very common in urban areas. The area between the roadway and the sidewalk often officially belongs to the town. Trees on the hellstrip are usually the town responsibility. It is unrealistic to think that a town administration can care for all these spaces and most of them remain grass, mowed by the homeowner.

Over the past few years, however, I have noticed that some home owners have taken ownership of the hellstrips and turned them into curbside gardens. Some of them have tough low groundcovers with a few flowers, and some have riotous displays. Last summer Timber Press sent me a new book to review, Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk and the curb. This is a comprehensive book that includes inspiring gardens in different climes, how to handle difficult situations from road maintenance to laws and covenants, how to choose plants and reduce your labor, as well as a list of “curbside worthy plants.”

I turned to this book for a refresher course and set to work. To say I started with a plan would be inaccurate, but I am happy with what I have done so far.

My hellstrip was all grass. I asked my husband to zip it down to the soil with a weed wacker. Then we took turns digging out the sod. We did this by stages, and of course, I neglected to take a before photo before we began. However, I am sure you all know what a grassy hellstrip looks like.

I dug up the first three foot section at both ends of the hellstrip, dug in some good compost and planted white astilbes and Stella d’Oro daylilies dug up from the front yard. Since these plants were dug, and replanted within minutes they suffered very little shock and I do not think I have lost any bloom.

Hellstrip
Hellstrip planting continues on both ends

My husband looked at these two plantings and reminded me that they shouldn’t be too symmetrical. He knows me so well. When I dug the next section I planted clumps of a chrysanthemum and bee balm from Heath as well as the annual Salvia Hot Lips when has already brought a little color to the strip.

More digging, removing sod and incorporating compost before more planting. This time I added daylilies, yarrow and cone flowers from Heath, more astilbe and an aster from the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale.

I am not quite done planting. I need to pick up some new daylilies from the local Silver Garden Daylilies, and see what else I can bring from my own garden to finish. Please notice that many of these plants will support the pollinator population with their nectar and pollen. All will be cut down in the fall. Any plowed snow that is pushed on them will do no harm.

Hellstrip
Hellstrip – almost done

My new curbside garden has two sections. The third section is an extension of the walkway from the side walk to the porch steps. That will provide a path for the passenger from a car parking right in front of the house. I will have to think of a way to keep it weed free. Peastone?  Wood chips? Big paving stone? That will require more thought.

So here we are, just a month into our new ownership and I feel I have marked our space. In the past when I have moved I have felt that if I had a few pots and pans and a box of books easily accessible I would feel comfortable and able to operate. This move has required more. Pots and pans, and boxes of books are already in place. Two rooms are painted with my own chosen colors.

Now the bit of (almost) finished garden in front of the house marks my outside space and makes me comfortable, but it also tells my neighbors, who we are slowly meeting, something about us and one of the ways we want to become a part of the neighborhood.

Keep watching for more developments as we slowly make a new garden.

Between the Rows   June 20, 2015

5 comments to Hellstrip – or Curbside Garden

  • This is so exciting Pat. Your hellstrip looks great! Doesn’t it feel good to get paint on and plants in. You can take a deep breath and study your garden around the house. I can’t wait to see what all you transplant from the country into the city. Have fun.

  • I know exactly how you feel. I’ve recently planted our hell strip. The flowers are coming, but the bees are complaining that it’s not there yet. We’ve inherited a lot of overgrown shrubs, but the front garden was cleared for the builders to renovate – and that freshly planted space is MINE.

  • Pat

    Lisa – Lots of transplanting going on. It is slow work.
    Diana – We must Take Possession! Isn’t it fun?

  • My house came with day lilies filling the strip. They seem impossible to kill so are there every year with very little care from me.

  • Pat

    Judith – I have several daylilies in the hellstrip, but two of my new neighbors have a full daylily hellstrip. All look great. We like the no care part.

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