Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Parking Strip Garden in Progress October 18, 2008

Taking a stroll in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle the other day, I found very few parking strip gardens. It’s a very tidy-yard part of town, with most gardens featuring heavily fertilized grass, tightly clipped shrubs, and very little wacky innovation.

So I was pleasantly surprised to come upon this corner lot, with twice the space for taking over the street with something a little different. It’s obviously a work in progress, and a narrower strip than those in my neighborhood, which to me made it even more interesting. The first step, taking out the grass, is done, but the plantings are still going in.


I’m partial to the slow phase-in too, although maybe just from laziness. I think it takes a bit of courage to leave the blank spaces for a while until the right plant enters your life.

I noticed some Pacific Northwest natives like this small vine maple (acer circinatum), and in the distance you can see that they are also using small berms of soil and mulch and planting into those.


This red-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera, another NW native) is getting its lovely fall colors. I also like the sawn tree branch as an accent.


Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) are ubiquitous in Seattle but somehow seeing one by itself instead of the usual massing makes it seem more unique and kind of sculptural. Not sure what the buried milk jug is for, slug traps or ?? Wouldn’t think that would be necessary near a fern but who knows.


I couldn’t resist a peek over their low fence into the front garden. I felt like a spy so didn’t look too long, but a prominent feature of the front yard is a chicken coop, with three lovely ladies (Buff Orpingtons, I’m guessing, only two were out but you can see the shadow of the third) clucking and pecking the grass under a twirling rainbow wind ornament. They looked like really content birds.


Proceeding around the corner, I saw this grouping of an aster (boy, only one aster? My garden needs to come over and learn something about aster restraint next year!) and senecio. My asters did that icky bottom-leaves rot thing too, so I just ripped them all out because looking at them was making me ill.

More nursery babies waiting to go into the ground, just like at my house… at least these ones are in place and all that’s left is to dig the holes. Looks like drip irrigation is getting put in, or at least a soaker hose – good idea for a parking strip garden.


This is not a showpiece garden, or at least not yet, but I thought it was a great example of a work in progress that will grow and evolve as the gardeners have the time and interest to spare. I think that sometimes people are afraid of such a large and blank canvas, and of the special requirements of gardening on the street, but we can see here that an unfinished plot can provide enjoyment and interest too.


6 Responses to “Parking Strip Garden in Progress”

  1. Daphne Gould Says:

    Wow a chicken coop in the front yard. That is unusual. I like when people do things differently.

  2. Michele Says:

    Does it look like that chicken coop is portable? I always marvel at how people keep chickens and have it look so tidy. I had city chicks a few years back and it was always very messy and difficult in our rainy climate to keep it from getting kinda yucky.
    Maybe the milk jug has holes in the bottom and they fill it and let it slowly water the fern? I have seen this done with buckets. It is a way to slowly water stuff so the water gets in the soil and doesn’t just run off the top. Neat looking garden.

  3. Racquel Says:

    Chickens in the front yard is interesting. I would love to have chickens, but having dogs and a cat has prevented it That looks like an interesting work in progress. They have made some nice choices for shrubs & trees. Hope you wander back some time next year to see how it has progressed. 🙂

  4. That sure ooks like a chicken tractor to me–what fun!

    I love a work in progress, and agree with you about the slow phase-in. Besides giving you time to figure out what to do, what will you work on if you plant everything quickly?

  5. meg garver Says:

    Just found your blog, love it! Thanks for the onion info…I am an onion moron, but I keep trying 🙂 We are pulling out the flowers and planting potatoes in our parkway…can’t wait to see what the neighbors think since we just took out the grass in the front yard to plant lettuce.

  6. gardenmentor Says:

    I’ve seen the buried milk jug (or liter soda jug) used as a slow release watering method. When I’ve tried it myself, I usually end up with a clogged up piece of recycled plastic garbage in my garden. Hopefully, these folks are having better luck 🙂

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