Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Late-Winter Color March 18, 2009

I saw what I thought was a particularly nice parking strip garden in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle recently. On a sunny weekend day at the tail end of winter, it provided a pleasing mix of colors, textures, heights and foliage types that also looked pretty low-maintenance.

Several coral-bark maples were the focal point for colorful winter interest. I priced these guys at the nursery lately, even tiny specimens are a fortune but I want one (or two?) anyway.

Parking strip with coral bark maples

While I was taking pictures a neighbor boy stopped by on his bike to ask me what I was doing. He said he had a tree just like these ones in his backyard. We agreed that we are tired of winter and are looking forward to warmer weather (he, for swimming and me, for gardening).

An underplanting of silvery-leaved foliage and later-blooming lavender makes good, easy water-wise sense. The entire strip is raised a bit from the sidewalk (for better drainage and to avoid the compaction issue?), as you can see in the background of this next shot – flagsone steps lead up to a path for access to the street. This has the added effect of channeling foot traffic to a desired walkway and discourages plant trampling.

Coral-bark maple close-up

A mature hebe survived our hellish winter. I’m thinking it might be a ‘Red edge’ like mine, just a bit further along.

Red edge hebe in parking strip

This small, red-stemmed euphorbia was growing between the stones edging the raised garden.

Tiny euphorbia

Crazy tasseled shrub. Any guesses? It reminded me of an Andy Goldsworthy piece, so puzzle-like.

Wacky parking strip plant

Any glimpse of color at this time of year is appreciated. Flower bulbs are finally feeling confident enough to emerge, but this gardener hadn’t included any, instead relying, at least in this season, on bark and foliage for color, and texture and rhythm for added eye-candy. Artfully simple, and simply artful – something I could really stand to take a lesson from.


9 Responses to “Late-Winter Color”

  1. Grace Says:

    I love the rocks mingling amongst the hebes and lavenders. The shrub could be Clethra alnifolia, emphasis on “could.” Clethra’s flowers are this tassel shape but without foliage it’s hard to know for sure.

    It looks like the gardener has cut back clumps of ornamental grasses. The whole vignette must be quite a sight in summer. The coral bark maples are the icing on the cake.

  2. Racquel Says:

    I love the texture, color & interest in this garden. Even without blooms it is interesting year round. That Coral Bark Maple is stunning.

  3. Catherine Says:

    I love the coral bark maples. They aren’t cheap, but worth it since they look so nice year round. I say buy 2 🙂

  4. Melanthia Says:

    What a gorgeous Coral Bark! It will be years before mine gets that size. Can’t wait to try the propagation experiment, though. That last pic looks very much like my “Great Orme”…. another hebe that took a winter hit!

  5. Jen Says:

    Well, at least if you priced the maples, you’ll know when you’re getting a good deal elsewhere, right? Love the footpath that they’ve created.

  6. Michelle Says:

    Gorgeous maples! I had one of those in a past garden and just loved it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good spot for one now, I’m sure the deer would munch it to death.

  7. RainGardener Says:

    The Maples are nice – I don’t think I’ve seen them before. Love the Hebe I tore one out this year that never did look good and finally died. O’well they said it was purple and it wasn’t so I was disappointed from the start and it had a good life of about 10+ years looking uggy. 😉
    The rock path is nice, really adds to the whole effect!

  8. Michele Says:

    I recently saw a fantastic combo with a coral bark maple. The homeowners had a purple door, and from the angle I stood, the coral bark was right in front of it and it really popped! Very eye-catching.

  9. rebecca Says:

    the crazy tasseled shrub looks like a dead Hebe, but it’s not enough of a close-up to be sure

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