Monday, April 8, 2013

My Garden is Growing

Spring is well under way here in North Texas, and my garden is growing.

The wildflowers and ornamental grasses are growing, 
and more perennials are emerging every day.

Buds are turning into leaves.

Ferns are unfurling.

The lawn has gotten its annual topdressing of compost,
so it is growing and greening.

 My veggie garden is growing like gangbusters, and I've already had my first harvest of carrots and asparagus :-)

But my garden is growing in another way.   The front perennial bed is expanding.  That patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street, commonly known among gardeners as the "hellstrip," is on its way to becoming a heavenly patch of perennials.

I have been wanting to rip out this section of lawn for a couple years now, but with other projects going on and having my garden on tour last spring, I put my plans on hold.

In January of this year we had a drain repaired in another part of the front yard, so the underground utilities were marked across the whole front yard, including the hellstrip area. I thought, as long as the utilities are marked so that we can see where we need to be careful, now sure seems like a great time to start the hellstrip project.

Unfortunately, some of those utilities are just inches below the surface, so the grass removal could not be as thorough as I would have liked.  I am going to have to resort to spraying with Roundup to kill any remaining grass because I am not going to battle Bermuda for the rest of my life.   I consider myself an organic gardener, but I do have my limitations.  If there were ever a reason to cross over the line for a bit, it is for the eradication of Bermuda.  Believe me, if I could dig without either cutting phone service to the neighborhood, electrocuting myself, or causing a gas explosion, I would be digging to my heart's content, but that is just not an option.  So, my fellow organic gardening friends, please forgive me, but I will be nuking the Bermuda as soon as it starts to rear its invasive little head.

I got online to look for inspiration and ideas for designing my hellstrip plantings, and I came across a blog called the Art of Gardening.  Jim's post called Living Hellstrips shows a collection of beautiful hellstrip planting designs.

When I came upon this picture, I knew I had found what I was looking for.   Adding the cobblestones will hopefully allow me to raise the planting areas enough to be out of the zone of the utility lines.    My plan is to use low-growing perennials (no taller than 1 foot tall) so that the perennials in the beds on the other side of the sidewalk can still be seen from the street. 

So at this point the initial grass removal has been done.

Complete eradication of the Bermuda roots now lurking below the surface will just take some time, so I am trying to be patient.  I need to wait until the temperatures are warm enough and the Bermuda is actively growing in order for the glyphosate applications to be effective.

Here's the list of plant options I'm considering:

Lamb's Ear - Stachys byzantina 'Helen von Stein'
Pink Skullcap - Scuttellaria suffrutescens
Sedum (various)
Katie's Ruellia - Dwarf Mexican Petunia
'Azure Skies' Heliotrope
Creeping Phlox - Phlox subulata
'Bath's Pink' Dianthus
'May Night' Salvia - Salvia nemorosa
Four-Nerve Daisy - Tetraneuris scaposa
Catmint 'Walker's Low' - Nepeta
'Hameln' Fountaingrass or Mexican Feathergrass

Stay tuned for further updates on my latest garden project; I can't wait to get it growing!

Toni :-)

P.S. Check out Rhone Street Gardens to see the beautiful transformation of the parking strip in front of Scott's Portland home.


  1. You go girl! I'm just laughing that you call it the hellstrip. You are right about that! We were in Oklahoma last week and drove by our old house. The hellstrip NEVER grew grass at that house. I drove by there and thought how glad I was not to battle that problem any more.

    It's just magical the way everything comes back out this time of year. Isn't it? Everything is so pretty right now. I'm saying a little prayer daily that rain keeps falling regularly. :)

  2. Good for you! I think adding plants to your hellstrip will help show off your other front yard plantings even more. I dug out and replanted my front hellstrip two years ago - mostly with moss phlox and creeping thyme, both of which have worked well. Some low-growing spring bulbs fill in the gaps this time of year, with brightly colored anemones garnering the most praise from passers-by. I'm planning to add catmint this year, too.

  3. Your plans for your hellstrip area in your yard are fantastic. Love the list of plants you picked out. I really like the idea of using cobblestones. It seems people prefer DG (decomposed granite) in TX, but it would be nice to see something different. It would add to the beauty of your gorgeous garden.

  4. Hi... so nice to see your beautiful gardens again! We are getting rain.... and I mean lots of it as in several inches... this will be the end of our snow drifts, although we are forecast snow later in the week... I'm sure it won't last long... hoping for a glorious spring if it ever gets here! Larry

  5. Glad you found some inspiration from my blog! Always nice to know. I'll also let the owners of that hellstrip know they're being emulated! I have to consider what to do in my hellstrip this coming summer. I know I don't want to have to mow it, and a tree was recently planted I can work around. I'll be stopping by to see what you end up with!

  6. That inspiration photo is fabulous. And planting the hellstrip will make your garden look even better, if that is possible. The neighbors will be so jealous! Your list of plants sounds great, and I like the idea of the addition of cobblestones to raise it a bit.

  7. Looking forward to seeing what you decide ... your garden is so inspirational. I'd like to rip our grass out in the hellstrip too someday. Spring is here for sure. I can hear the frogs singing as I type :)

  8. That is going to look so much prettier when it's done. I often wonder why so many in our hot climate continue to mow and water that small spot when they could have lovely plants and flowers instead.

  9. I think in this case your use of Round-Up is justified and I wouldn't feel badly about it either!

    I can't wait to see the finished project.

  10. Sounds like a fun project. If I had a hellstrip, I'd probably do that, too. It will be fun to see how it turns out! The Sedum and Creeping Phlox will be great anchor plants.

  11. I love the new design!! It makes me want to do the same thing to my road side hell strip. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project. :o)

  12. That 'HeavenStrip' is going to look fantastic! :0) DAvid

  13. I agree. It's a wonderful idea. I can't wait to see your Heavenly strip finished.

  14. Toni
    It was wonderful to meet you today. You are truly an inspiration!
    Here I am on your blog site and I look forward to reading all the interesting material here.
    Your yard is incentive to walk a little farther on my route for exercise. I look forward to seeing you again and this beautiful project you are working on as it develops.

  15. Great idea, this is a fun project, be inspired and everything will be perfect. I can't wait to see the result.

  16. I like the cobbles, though that seems higher maintenance...yet it creates nice pockets for plants to do better in. One thought I have is if you'll use much of that list of plants or some others, or you'll use very few, to unify this side of your diverse bed, like the lawn does on the inside. Can't wait to've probably done it by now!

    1. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, David. I'm curious why you think the cobbles will make it higher maintenance. I used about 20 different perennials, mostly thymes and sedums along the rock edge to soften the rocks and then some blooms down the middle area. The project is done, but just need some time to develop the post to show it off :-) Soon....stay tuned :-)

  17. It's called a hellstrip because it can be really annoying to homeowners, especially when grass starts to grow on them. But the idea of landscaping and beautifying these annoying spaces is a great idea indeed! Adding cobble stones will help keep the plants and grass from overgrowing and for them to remain on their alotted space. Gardening is a fun thing to do when you know how to do it properly, have the patience to know the plants' ways, and how you can make full use of them. Good luck!
    Jeremy @ Flowers\' Gardens & Landscapes

  18. I think , your idea very great, thanks for your share post

  19. Our area does not allow this type of work. I would love to do this