By Jodi Torpey
The long strip of grass between my next-door neighbor’s yard and my driveway wasn’t exactly a hell strip, but it certainly was a devil of a place for grass.
With no automatic sprinkler system I had a chore dragging a hose to water the 8x20-ft space. This wasted a lot of water too. The neighbor’s casual approach to lawn care meant weeds could easily creep across the property line without anything to stop them.
I struggled to keep that part of the lawn green and growing through just one sizzling summer before deciding the turf had to go.
Using a long-handle shovel, I dug up the grass piece by piece, tossed it into a wheelbarrow and rolled it across the street to a neighbor, who transplanted it in his backyard.
With a blank canvas where the grass had been, I set to work amending the soil and planting a water-wise garden that included shrubs, bulbs, ornamental grasses and perennial flowers.
I started by anchoring the space with three Goldflame spirea (Spirea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’) deciduous shrubs. These hardy plants grow in all kinds of soil and have moderate to low water needs. The leaves begin crimson-red in spring and then turn vibrant green with small pink flowers in summer. In fall the foliage turns an eye-catching reddish-bronze.
To fill a large part of the planting space, I selected a hardy pampas grass (Saccharum ravennae) for its size and nearly four seasons of beauty. Another shorter ornamental grass, Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima), added delicate foliage and upright habit, complementing the larger grass.
The perennial flowers I planted are easy-care with low-water needs and included coreopsis, purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), prairie jewel penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus), cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus) and assorted daylilies (Hemerocallis). Because some of these plants are vigorous self-sowers, the garden filled in nicely over the next several seasons.
Now, instead of a high-maintenance, water-wasting eyesore, I have a beautiful flowering border along the driveway that adds real curb appeal. It requires only a weekly watering in the hottest part of summer, and as much deadheading as I care to do to keep the coreopsis blooming.
What have you done to solve your toughest gardening challenge?