Monday, September 22, 2008

Theory of Place-Holder Plants

...shown in a very roundabout way by hurricane debris. Everyone here has a hedge-sort-of-thing between the street and sidewalk, courtesy of Hurricane Ike.

My own Ike hedge is modest, since much debris is now in the compost.

In the middle of the mess, schoolhouse lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) are looking weary but present.

I had schemes for robust, useful, and fabulous plantings of the "hell strip". They were further incited by a look at this Seattle blog, Greenwalks. Up till now, my strip was practically a monoculture of liriope spiked with some bulbs, a parsley hawthorne youngster, and some oaks. When we moved in here, the front "garden" was a mud flat migrating to the curb. I took emergency measures to stabilize it: I dug enough clumps of liriope from our old home to make hundreds of transplants for the hell strip. Then on Thanksgiving Day I enlisted all family members to plant them. That day, my Theory of Place-Holder Plants was born.

Say you have some place to plant, but what you want to plant there is out of season/stock/budget. I say go ahead and put in free, tough, boring plants to hold the place. They help keep the soil in the beds loose and inhabited. They are a little like cover crops. When the plants you really want arrive, out go the place-holder plants.

Who knows when the city will collect all this biomass thrown down by the hurricane. I am now quite pleased that there is not much but liriope growing under the pile. Liriope will survive. Some day, I will make a more creative planting of the hell strip, but I will always keep a place for another hurricane hedge.


Clare said...

What is a hell strip?

Muddy Mary said...

It's the patch of ground between the street and the sidewalk. I believe disgruntled gardeners call it that because it's not usually irrigated except by dogs and leaking trash cans, and the city can have their way with it. My Aussie inlaws have a more elegant term: nature strip. Unless it means stripped of nature.

Karen said...

I hadn't heard the "hell strip" term either until just recently. Funny! It's maybe a regional thing? I've read that it's due to all the reflected heat/light that area gets from pavement on both sides, making it a tough place for plants to survive sometimes.

Sorry about your hurricane damage, thanks for the link to Greenwalks, and I totally agree about place-holder plants! I'm slowly but surely getting more perennials into my parking strip (Seattle term) garden but it's taking years. In the meantime, I have a pretty random selection of mostly FREE stuff and reseeders. :)