The parkway is probably the worst part of your yard for a plant to grow!!! The area between the sidewalk and the street isn’t even very good for grass. Winter brings salt and gravel thrown up by the snow plows and in summer it is hot and dry from being surrounded by sidewalk and street. But not impossible for some plants!

          In one spot in Lincoln I found Pumpkins doing well with lots of attention.  They were planted in the center of the parkway in a depression to catch water and hold it, and the vines were trained to go down the center rather than into the street.  Without trees there they received full sun and mulch to keep the soil wet. This also prevented anything else from using the soil and they were doing well. I bought seeds from the “world’s largest Pumpkin” in hopes of seeing what I can do next summer.  I even have the book (a history) of large Pumpkins. 

          On one corner in Lincoln I noticed it filled with Creeping Junipers instead of lawn. For years I have left a strip of grass along the street so people who get out of their cars would have a place to step. I also left a strip near the sidewalk. None of the grass did too well so this fall BJ dug them under for me and put in Turf Type Tall Fescue which is up and a beautiful green. Will see how it does.

          In the center of the parkway I have tried a number of plants that have done quite well.  The annuals, vinca and the short Zinnias, both bloom all summer and do their own deadheading.  Both are only about 12 inches high.  The Vinca will need a little more water than the Zinnias.  Cosmos are another annual that can handle that area.

          Off to one side of the sidewalk along the front fence are the Hairy Balls, also known as Love In A Puff (Gomphocarpus physocarpus).  The balls adhere directly to the stems that are over six foot tall.  They will pop open and float out seeds that have umbrellas almost like those of the Butterfly Milkweed.  They do get heavy so I like to have a stake nearby.  It takes a saw to cut down all of one season’s growth.

          Also against the front fence are a number of Blue Spirea (Caryopteris sp), thick with blue blooms, four feet tall and full of Bumble bees and other insects. These bees and insects are not doing any damage but just taking advantage of the nectar in the flowers. The Spirea has also produced a number of seeds and new plants that grow to 4x4 in their first summer. The roots are hardy here so early in the Spring I cut them down almost to the ground.  Except for Asters, there isn’t a good deal of blue bloom in the fall.

          My Iris does about as well in the “Hell Strip” as anywhere in the yard.  They need water during Spring to get started but after blooming need little attention for some time.  Fall is the best time to divide Iris as they are a vigorous plant whose roots can get over crowded in a few years.  Fall or very early Spring is the time to watch out for Iris Borers who lay their eggs in the old foliage early in the Spring unless you remove it and clean up your bed this fall.

          Gallardia is another dry land survivor with typical fall colors of yellow, red, and orange. Some are annuals, and others are perennials that bloom first year from seed. They have been known as Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket. They don’t seed as well as I would like so I try to add a few new plants each Spring.  Most of them remain under 30 inches tall in the parkway.

          Moss Rose (Portulaca) is in the Purslane family that loves that hot and dry area and reseeds itself so tightly that I must hoe up at least 50% to 70% of their area every Spring for them to survive. Purslane (the weed variety) will take over any open space, paths, cracks in the sidewalk, even the gutters, so I have a hate-love feeling about the genus.

          Blackeyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp.)  can take care of themselves in many places such as heavy clay soil.  They will need some water and spread slowly. A number of the Rudbeckia genuses have been called Blackeyed. A few are listed as “ Brown eyed” as well as “Gloriosa Daisy”.  There is even one called “Irish Eyes”.  Flowers in the Rudbeckia genus can be from 12 inches tall such as Becki or Bambi while the Golden Glow is listed as growing 8 feet tall.

Copyright 2010





          The common myth is that we mulch our plants in the fall to keep the ground warm. The truth is we mulch in late fall to keep the ground cold. More winter hardy plants are killed by the freezing and thawing during the winter and in early Spring than from the cold. We also are trying to keep plants from heaving. That is, from being pushed out of the ground by the freeze. So we want to put the mulch on the soil after a couple hard freezes (night time temperatures of 28 degrees F. or below) and then keep the soil cold. I usually do not cover my roses until after Halloween and sometimes as late as Thanksgiving.

          Do not use those foam cones unless you cut the top out, and then fill the inside with mulch, compost, or soil. On a warm winter day the heat builds up inside a cone that has the top still on it. This heat builds up and heats up the soil, possibly causing the plant to break dormancy. With the next hard freeze the plant then freezes and dies. They are easy and convenient to use, but they do not work.

          Remember, mulch in the winter to keep the ground cold, and mulch in the summer to keep the roots cool and the ground from drying out.

Copyright 2010