Parking strip makeover

rkwpnw(8)April 11, 2009

Need advise on sun loving drought tolerant plants for a south facing parking strip about 13' wide. I would like a repetitive pattern and a mix of evergreen and flowering. So far on my list are Sedum 'autumn joy', sedges, heathers, daylilies and lavender along the path. Any more suggestions? There are two full moon maples we planted. Its a clean slate after we pulled out the turf. Also there is a telephone /utility pole to the side where I'd like to plant a vine/clematis. Are there rules on this in Portland?

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Please remember that people will be parking their cars next to your parking strip, opening their doors, and walking on it. I suggest low growing plants and plants that will take some foot traffic on the street side.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 12:50AM
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Maybe some Crimson Pygme barberries to guard the maples or a better dwarf evergreen with thorns. Stepable ground cover on the rest.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 1:34AM
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I think you may be looking at difficulties with the maples down the road.....fullmoon maples are neither sunloving nor drought tolerant and are unlikely to be happy or do well under those conditions. And since they are not inexpensive trees, I'd consider transplanting them - and soon - to a better suited location.

Otherwise, you plan sounds more or less reasonable. Hallerlake makes a good point - parking strips are high traffic areas that generally get a lot of abuse - kids, garbage accumulation, difficulty watering, car doors and associated foot traffic, dogs roaming and relieving themselves. Very durable, low growing and low maintenance plants are suggested. No vines (you are not allowed to plant on telephone or utility poles) or anything that shrubby that grows too tall to block visibility.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 11:44AM
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Thanks all for the advise. I was thinking about a foot or so of woolly thyme close to where cars might park. I also got some dwarf evergreen rosemary today. As for the maples, this is the Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium' which is rated for full sun per great plant picks. I think it might need more water in the first few years till established.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 5:21PM
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There are all kinds of rules in Portland concerning plantings and structures in parking strips, but there is no enforcement unless a neighbor or other passerby complains to the city, so plant certain items at your own risk.

This news article has been prominently reported in PDX concerning one person's attempt at growing edibles in the strip.

There have been recent upstart organizations encouraging parking strip edibles as part of a Green Movement, and they may run afoul of random complaints just like Mr. Benner.

But most parking strip things are worth a try as the odds of being taken to task are low.

I myself have potentilla and juniper, but your layout will be much more interesting!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 12:13AM
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flowerfan2(z8/ WA)

Hi, I have about 200' of parking strips which I have put all into flowers. The parking strips are so visible that you should try for year round interest. I have something blooming in mine from December until frost. I use a large selection of spring bulbs that bloom from Dec-May. I have perennial flowers blooming from May until frost. I use a combination of evergreen and deciduous perennials. I plant the early spring bulbs around all the deciduous perennials so they bloom and grow while the perennial is dormant. Some of the bulbs I grow are cyclamen hederifolium, cyclamen coum, winter aconite, snowdrops, iris reticulata, crocus, scillia, glory of the snow, hyacinth, muscari, anemones, species tulips, appledorn tulips, bluebells, and allium moly. This is the order that they bloom for me also. The spring bulbs are easy care and drought tolerant, as they go dormant soon after they bloom. They multiply quickly and really are beautiful. I pick easy care drought tolerant perennials that bloom at different times. I use some evergreens and some deciduous. Some of the evergreen perennials that I use are Pacific coast iris, bergenia, creeping phlox, candytuft, euphorbias, hellebores, lamb's ears, New Zealand flax, dianthus, campanula, sedums and sempirvions. Some of the deciduous perennials that have done well for me are daylilys, lady's mantle, coreopsis, rudbeckia, asters, salvia, golden margarite, red plantain, ornamental grasses and hardy annuals like hens and chicks. I do have 7 plum trees planted in the strip as well. I do have clematis vines growing up each one and they have done very well also. I use different varieties with different bloom times so I have clematis blooming from April until frost. Your trees are very small still, so you should wait a few years before planting a clematis vine on them. Make sure you plant one that won't overwhelm your tree.
It is true what gardengal said about the negative aspects of growing flowers in a parking strip. I wouldn't let it discourage you though. I have had so many people tell me how much they enjoy the flowers over the years. Neighbors plan their daily walks along my sidewalk, cars have stopped in the middle of the street to tell me how much they love the flowers, people are always asking me what this and that is. You'll get much more postive feedback than negative. Good luck with your garden. Karen

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 12:14AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Seattle also has rules for parking strip planting. I would suggest installing a strip of pavers along the car side so that people can park and get out of their cars without stepping into a garden. Planting could still be done between this and the side walk.

I would never plant edibles on the street due to the lead, asbestos and other stuff that cars have given off over the years there. Then there is what people let their dogs do.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 12:48AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

It's been a few years now, but we helped my brother remove ice storm damaged sidewalk trees in SE, plant approved replacements. This hasn't changed as far as I know:

"The land between the sidewalk and the street, often called the parking strip or planting strip, is part of the public right-of-way. However, Portland City Code requires the adjacent property owner or resident to maintain the strip. Before you plant, prune, or remove a tree on this land, you must obtain a free permit from the City Forester."

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 2:35AM
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xantippe(8 Portland OR)

Filling our parking strip with plants and trees is one of the best things we ever did--it adds so much life to the front of our house.

Here is a link to an MSN article about parking strips around the country:

And here is the picture I used as inspiration for my own "inferno Strip"

What I can tell you is definitely leave a HUGE empty space for trash cans/recycling bins--make it much bigger than you think you need, because invariably the garbage collectors will fling your empty garbage cans on your plants. Also, leave empty spaces on the street-side margins of your bed for people to step on. And then leave room for at least two paths across the bed. These paths can be paved or not. We paved the central path with irregular stepping stones, and they add so much character to the bed.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 9:47AM
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How long have the maples been planted? Human nature being what it is, valuable Asian maples such as these planted in a very public, accessible place such as a parking strip, have a tendency to 'disappear'. They even 'disappear' out of front yards and less public spaces as well.

Personally, I'd not consider planting anything of much value in a parking strip. First, because it's going to get beat up - that's pretty much inevitable - and second, someone else may find it too appealing to resist. I've known folks who have replanted parking strips numerous times because the existing plants were mysteriously relocated elsewhere. I even know of some who have somehow "misplaced" pavers. Apparently more than just a few consider anything in a parking strip to be up for grabs.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 12:09PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The main problem with the maples as street trees, even if kept watered is their low forking habit. Having them stolen or vandalized would, of course be a problem as well. As far as theft is concerned tree and shrub anchoring supplies have been available from local outlets in the past. When I worked at the Everett, WA Teufel some years ago we had anti-theft kits for sale there. These were wires that ran from the tree to an anchor in the ground. Since then I believe I have seen similar products offered elsewhere too.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 7:28PM
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