Streetside flower bed flourishes with effort

There is a narrow flower border along the north side of my house which should be a difficult spot to fill. The street runs right along it, with salty snow and gravel pushed into the space all winter, the sump pump discharges a spout of water right there, and the outlet from the furnace shoots hot air. And yet, it has one of the best displays of flowers all year long.

It is a surprise every year to see all the color in that unlikely spot. It gets little sun there on the north side, and traffic passes within inches. The soil must be choked with the roots of those shrubs, I don’t add fertilizer, and yet, it always looks good.

Maybe it is the color combination of salmon pink, blue, lavender and golden yellow that jumps out at you.

The anchor of this flower bed is an arbor vitae that just keeps growing, and now is up to the roof. That tree has a history. Originally, there were two of them flanking the dining room window, but about 10 years ago, there was a fierce wind storm that took down one tree and left it sprawling across the street. The remaining tree was badly tilted, and I expected it to fall at any time.

But my grandson, Nick, and his friend, Brad, came to the rescue. They wrapped the trunk with a bungee cord, attached a rope and pulled the tree upright with the end of the rope going through Nick’s bedroom window and tied to the footboard of his bed.

Things stayed that way for a while, and then the strappings came off. The tree has prospered ever since.

One end of the flower bed contains two buddleias, gifts from a reader, and the other end has a star magnolia, a dwarf Alberta spruce, a large clump of miscanthus ornamental grass and a Miss Kim lilac. Too many shrubs for a narrow border, but they all do well.

The most important perennial there is a cutleaf rudbeckia that weaves around a trellis, grows more than 5 feet tall and wide, and flowers from mid- to late summer with a profusion of golden blossoms.

There are a few Virginia bluebells there, and space for salmon geraniums and an edging of portulaca as well as any annuals that take my fancy. Other spots quickly are filled with liriope, also called creeping lilyturf. I think creeping is the wrong word here, scrambling or scurrying would describe its movement more accurately because it instantly fills any available space.

As I look out at this border from my window, all I can see are a few sticks poking through piles of dirty snow.

It is strange how parts of one’s garden take on a life of their own. I have never planned out what to plant there, it just grew.

I need to pay regular attention to the border because it is on a direct route between the high school and the convenience store, and gets an un-needed mulch of cups and sandwich wrappings all the time. It also is the part of the garden that people see as they drive by.

This spring, I am going to invest in a load of stone outside the garage and around the house, and I have full confidence all the hidden treasures will pop up again and bloom their hearts out.

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

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