Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The awkward boulevard strip

We have a very small parking strip or "boulevard", as my friend, Debcot, calls it. Just 2 feet wide.

(A very interesting word, "boulevard", from 1700's French meaning an avenue built on a razed rampart. Also very interesting what that strip is called all over the U.S. according to Wikipedia. This strip name even turned up in the New York Times quiz that shows you "How Y'all, Youse and You Guys Talk". Just all around interesting.) 

I rather like the terms devilstrip, furniture zone, and hellstrip and there is even a book written called Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and Curb.

Our old boulevard was filled with Liquidambar trunk and roots, ice plant, and African Iris. The sidewalk was a hazard - tilted concrete - from the roots snaking under to our lawn. It was really bad. Our neighbor chastised us for causing her husband to have to climb over the humps with his walker. The final straw was when the local teens started using it to get airborne on their skateboards. A true accident waiting to happen. The city no longer repairs sidewalks so we decided we needed to take this into our own hands. We removed the two Liquidambars and put in a couple of landing pads and a brand-new flat sidewalk. Heaven!

So one thing had led to another and we decided that this was also a good time to replace the front lawn with native plants. Which meant our boulevard was replanted with natives as well.

We have three distinct sections: 1) hot, dry, sunny 2) hot, dry, sunny, but with a street tree 3) shady and dry.

We started out with native fescue grasses, but I am gradually replacing some of them with other plants. The fescues just don't look that good 10 months of the year, especially this last year. I don't want to water them enough. So what are better choices for the awkward boulevard? I was thinking a low growing manzanita might look good. The middle section has a beautiful Prunus mume that probably wants more water than a manzanita, however. So what are my choices?

I have seen several discussions about boulevard plantings in the "Gardening with Natives" forum. I gleaned their lists from the youtube and post. Results are down below.

However, I just now googled "native plants side walk california" and came up with some very complete and organized lists from the San Francisco Public Works "Sidewalk Landscaping Permits" page. Granted SF is not SJ or Fremont, but there must be some overlap and I confirmed that there is overlap. I've put "(SF)" where-ever there is overlap:
Here are the lists that I found from "Gardening with Natives" forum. I have added the Plant factor and irrigation group for several. And if a plant shows up in the plant list for SF sidewalks, I've added "(SF)".

In April 2003, the Santa Clara chapter of CNPS came up with a list of successful plants "Native Plants for Parking Strips". Achillea millefolium – White Yarrow (M/L, 2)

The Santa Clara branch of the California Native Plant Society had a presentation by Carrie Jensen called "Grey to Green: Native Plants in Parking Strips and Side Yards". She talks about the mechanics of removing concrete and replacing with plants. She suggests

Our shady hell-strip

The shadiest section of our hell-strip
I like the wildness of it, but do my neighbors?

These clarkias have reseeded for 3-4 years.

The orange wall-flower was a surprise.
Did I plant that?

Horkelia from a local ridge top.
It was about 2 inches tall on very exposed grassy ridge.
Very happy here in the shade.
Butterflies visit the almost insignificant (to humans) flowers.

Coming in for a landing!

Hazelnut bush with swallowtail

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