The Street-Side Garden The Street-Side Garden

Because it is often the public section of a landscape, that narrow section of land that runs between the sidewalk and the street is usually kept bare, bland and botanically bereft. Maybe the grass is kept neat, maybe it needs to be weeded - but if you are interested in adding to your home's curb appeal or simply want to branch out with your garden, than the street-side landscape is the perfect place to perk up with plants.

First things first - check with your city or village before you begin digging up their property (as this area is generally owned by the village). A moat, a stockade fence, even a typical garden fountain may pass their local ordinances. However, typical flowerbeds and trees may pass easily. Before you put any work into the project, learn what's allowed so you can plan your design accordingly and save yourself the trouble of being ticketed. You will also want to plan a landscape that is more hardy than delicate as it receives more foot traffic than other areas and is also subject to road salt during winter.

Whether your street-side landscape is sunny or shady will impact your design as well as the types of plants you choose. A bare sunny strip is simply begging for a tree - but choose one that will enhance rather than detract from your home. For instance, don't plant it so it blocks your entrance or front window. If possible, plant toward the corner of your property on one or both sides of the strip. This can help frame your view for the onlooker. Also, it will not block your view of the street when you look out your front door or windows.

When considering new trees, consider shape as well as the level of maintenance that will be required. Spreaders, columnar, conical are just a few to consider for this area. As you will be gardening beneath it, try to opt for a neat tree that doesn't make much mess. Ornamental trees are natural choices to consider, but even large trees like oaks will add stately shade to the block. Trees that change color in the autumn are good choices, but trees with interesting bark or shapes can add interest to the winter landscape as well.

If your section is well shaded, than you may want to provide attractive plantings that will thrive around the base of the established trees. Many villages take care to maintain the trees throughout the neighborhood; if those in your area need some maintenance, call your local village and find out if they provide this service. If they don't, they probably won't mind if you do provide some helpful pruning. Dead trees should be removed altogether. Shady areas require different plantings but may be just as attractive as sunnier locations given your design choices.

On most city blocks this public strip is crossed by a short walkway separating the section in two. It may be attractive and helpful to edge this path with stone edgings or possibly cobblestones, decorative tiles, railroad ties, etc. This will help keep plants held back from the walk and give it a more manicured, formal appearance. Well-tended shrubs may also provide an attractive edging, but again, be sure this type of design is acceptable to your village or town. Of course, you might even check into replacing the plain concrete walk with a mosaic design or stonework, cobblestone, or a more decorative paver.

A sunny section can be transformed into a lush colorful extension of your front yard garden. A mixed planting of ornamental grasses and low-growing perennials will certainly add great visual appeal to your setting. Just as in the rest of your front yard, you'll want to choose a variety of plants that will provide color throughout the growing season. Consider planting either section of your street-side garden in blocks. For example, plant a low-growing perennial 'Little Princess' spirea facing the street and behind it plant a row of velvet grass.

On the opposite section install three blocks as opposed to two for more variation. A short row of 'Brilliant' maiden pink (to compliment the pink spirea) planted before another short row of dwarf fountain grass. To its side, consider planting a large section of velvet grass or another ornamental grass like Japanese blood grass that works well with many perennials and is simply stunning in the fall. Of course, choose plants that will thrive in your location and climate.

Alternatively, a shady street-side section can make the most of trees that line the property - if they are a part of your section, that is. Maple or magnolia, a tree can be landscaped with shade plants around its base. Encircle your tree with mulch or for a more decorative touch, add some large rocks near its base and create niches for foliage plants to grow. For the rest of the section, consider plants such as hosta, lily-of-the-valley, painted fern, maidenhair fern, lamium, carpet bugle, etc.

Planting a street-side garden will make for an inviting display that will naturally add to your home's curb appeal. With the wide choices of beautiful hardy plants, you will likely have little trouble designing a welcoming garden full of variations in color, texture and shape. Choose easy-to-maintain varieties and lay down some mulch to help trap in moisture and help tamp down on weeds. Less permanent mulches like wood chips or bark will even help improve the soil in this section - usually necessary if the soil has given way to little else but grass. Finally, add a comfortable bench or swing to your porch and enjoy the view out to the street.

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