Planting the Parking Strip

70 degrees in Portland, Oregon (well, almost 70) and sunny means it’s time to think about the next project. This spring, I’m tackling the parking strip and putting in some plants that might live out there. A couple of years ago, when we move into this house, the parking strip consisted of a smattering of grass and a large 50-year old red maple. Naturally, the grass was sparse or non-existent. I rototilled the area and barked it, like the rest of my front yard. With all the work I did on the landscape last year, the parking strip was put aside for another year.

When we moved in 3 years ago, plants around this house were either greatly over-planted or in the wrong place. I moved some bulbs (mostly tulips) last year into the strip and they are doing well. I also had several azaleas that I moved, with two going to the parking strip. Well, they died.  So, there was not much left except the tulips and a volunteer rose. And, bark, of course.

I receive monthly emails from Portland Nursery and the latest one talked about Epimediums. This peaked my interest, so I made a trip to check them out. I described my situation to a knowledgeable employee and she said the azaleas probably died because they require a lot of water and were competing with the tree. The tree won. She suggested I should concentrate on drought resistant plants and showed me several choices. I tend to go for perennials, so I selected several varieties of the Epimediums and a plant called “Majestic Lilyturf”.

The Lilyturf has violet flower spikes in the summer (aha, summer color) and grow to about 2 feet tall. They look kind of grassy, and stay evergreen! I bought two of these.

I picked up six of the Epimediums. They are also called Barrenwort and are considered a tough, long-lived ground cover. Epimediums prefer moist, well-drained organic soils in light to dense shade. They will tolerate dry shade and tree roots once they get established and grow 12–15 inches tall. Late spring to early summer bloom. Good choice!

The strip is planted for now. I’ll tweak it as time goes on, especially as I see how these plants fare with automobile exhaust, a huge tree that sucks up all the water, etc.!

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