Natives for Portland Hell Strip

chezronSeptember 2, 2012

I am helping my brother with his yard. Do you have any suggestions for native plants for the parking strip (hell strip) next to the street? Hot, Dry, and three feet wide.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Will have to be well-drained, and annual pruning back will be needed after it reaches the edge and starts to grow out of bounds, but growth is slow. No foot traffic, it dies out where trampled. But not even lawn grasses hold up where there is enough walking.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 12:11PM
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George Three LLC

native enough (ish)

Here is a link that might be useful: point reyes ceanothus

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 1:08PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

That one may freeze out on him.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 5:43PM
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George Three LLC

i've seen a couple that survived the 12 degree nights of 2008 in portland. should work for long enough.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 9:42PM
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I've always imagined Hell as being more than three feet wide.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

You know how long the poster wants the planting to last? If you are going to try to argue that this is a hardy plant, the history of its use and performance does not support it. Lots of plants hardy to 10, 12, 15 degrees F. are bought and planted here year after year, to die back or out the next time it gets cold enough. Okay for experimenters and others that don't care, not okay for anyone that wants a reliable long-term landscape planting.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 4:39PM
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And how well that plant will last seems to be more or less a difference of opinion. Point Reyes ceanothus is a recommended groundcover from the Whatcom County extension service (that's Bellingham and exposure to the Frasier River arctic blasts) and reported hardy to 0F, according to a California native plant resource (although that seems very generous). You might want to seek out the cultivar 'Centennial', which seems to have a 10 degree bonus on hardiness compared to other popular groundcover varieties. And recommended by Portland Nursery as well :-)

Suffice it to say how hardy the plant may prove to be for you may depend a lot on growing conditions. Personally, I think a hot, dry, unamended "hell strip" in Portland, OR sounds about ideal for this plant, provided of course drainage is good. FWIW, I've found poor or less-than-ideal drainage to be a far more limiting hardiness factor for many plants in our climate than winter cold.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:16PM
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George Three LLC

should people only plant bristlecone pines? i mean, why plant a doug fir if they are just going to die in 2000 or so years?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:01AM
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You might go to Bosky Dell Natives out of West Linn and see if anything in stock looks good for the strip.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 12:02AM
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Those curb strips often also have power or phone lines above them, so don't forget to look up and assess any overhead obstacles before planting trees. Avoid cherry trees (especially the native Bitter Cherry, which isn't available in a weeping or dwarf form) because they lift sidewalks. If you plant a tree, remember also to consider how that affects the ability to open doors of cars that park at the curb. Shrubs should be given due consideration, as well. My advice is to stick with low-growing herbs and forbs and groundcovers. A native plant that I think is overlooked is Stachys cooleyi (Common name is Colley's hedge nettle - but a member of the mint family, NOT a nettle at all). Hummingbirds love it. I can send you seeds if you e-mail me form my member page. Other natives are Oregon stonecrop sedum, twinflower, western columbine, deer fern, lady fern, camas, foamflower, piggyback plant, false lily-of-the-valley (has very long roots that can cross under sidewalks and invade your yard), goldenrod, fringecup, Oregon wood sorrel, iris tenax, iris douglasii, nodding onion, pearly everlasting, thrift, wild strawberry, yarrow. I've included a link to a website where you can search for native plants to fit your needs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Plant Search

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 6:50PM
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The short list of approved trees for Portland3-foot strips:

Getting summer waterings on the parking strip makes a longer plant list for what does well and looks good. chezron implies that water may be limited.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 12:40AM
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Wow! You guys have been incredibly helpful! I appreciate it very much. Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The large, long-established Pt Reyes ceanothus plantings on I-5 through Bellevue etc. all froze out in 1990. I don't remember any of it coming back, but I'd have to go look to be sure there wasn't a little recovery here and there.

Hardy around Bellingham, I don't think so.

The cherry you see frequently making trouble with its roots is sweet cherry. Bitter cherry lifting pavements and the like is not something I remember.

Sweet cherry, in addition to being very commonly planted both as a fruit tree and as a rootstock is also a naturalized nuisance species here, that seems to get mistaken for bitter cherry. The two of them also cross rather often, to produce the intermediate Puget cherry.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 3:57PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Coming on this thread in a search for goldenrods to grow in this area, the native list has a lot of plants that wouldn't be suitable for a hell strip (stinging nettle, etc), and only lists Solidago canadensis, though there are other goldenrods native here on the usda site. Personally if i wanted ideas for curbside plantings I would go to the Portland Nursery on Stark Street and 50th and look at theirs, or walk around some neighborhoods and look at plantings.

As for Point Reyes Ceanothus, I have one, I've lost all my Hydrangeas that were here for 18+ years in the last 2-3 years but PRC is doing fine. It hardly gets any water and spreads nicely, blooms, and has nice glossy deep green foliage. But it is a little sparse to really discourage weeds from coming up through it, though I can't say Arctostaphylos can do that either. The point about people being able to open car doors and get out is important. I rather like heathers in the strip, though they are not native they are very tough, mine grow on a ramp with almost no supplemental water; they can really be dense enough to shut out other growth, and some bloom in winter, while others bloom in other seasons so it's possible to have nearly year-round bloom with them and neat foliage when sheared.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 6:11AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Any woody plantings that get stepped on over and over will go bare in those spots. Brittle kinds like heath family plants in particular. Plus those can't take compaction of the soil by feet.

Parking strips to be used for vehicle access really need to be paved (natural stone or concrete pavers), at least in those sections where people will be stepping a lot. Grass is common but has to be maintained and is likely to be soiled by dogs.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 11:36AM
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I'd use a very drought-tolerant, but beautiful grass, Muhlengeria dubia (relative to our native Muhlenbergia rigens). It's about 3-4' wide/tall at maturity, which gives just a tiny bit of over hang (6" on each side of the strip), which will also soften the edge nicely. It should make it through our summer dry spells unscathed, and the only maintenance needed would be an annual cut-back to the ground in late winter. I'd mulch the strip with gravel...and leave a 3-4' wide gap without plants in at least 2 spots, where you can expect people to get in or out of cars. Just my 2 cents :-) Of course, it'd be better (more interesting) to do a mixed planting...perhaps underplanting the area with different sedums? It kind of depends on the level of foot traffic and the level of work the homeowner is willing to put into it.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 1:12PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Good soil preparation increases the varieties you can plant and contributes to better health for the ones you do plant. That's one step often overlooked, or not done well, in Hell strips.
Clearly defined paths across the strip would dress it up a bit and concentrate pedestrian traffic and compaction.
I like bboy's suggestion of Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. There are several varieties to choose from. I've seen it used in parking strips and it looks, and does quite well in that application when given enough sun and drainage.
Mike...19F this am here.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 12:29PM
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