Friday, May 21, 2010

My Summer Project

In the area we live, many homes (if not most) are fronted by a sidewalk. Between the sidewalk and the road lies a thin strip of landscapable terrain called a park strip. Park strips give pedestrians a cushion of space between them and the road with all its busy cars whizzing by, and studies show that the park strip indeed calms traffic, assumably by making the road appear narrower by separating the sidewalk. These things are all well and good, but gosh the darn things are terribly hard to deal with! When we moved into our home, the park strip immediately in front of us was filled with grass and lined with four stunted catalpa trees. I'm not sure how widespread the custom is, but in our area it was quite popular during the 60s to plant catalpas or other fast-growing trees in the park strip area, then to cap them, cutting off their top branches to create a ball effect each year with the new growth. We call them "Dr. Seuss trees," although I have also heard them referred to as "lollipop trees" and "wow those are really strange trees." Anyway, our four trees were surrounded by grass. Which was very difficult to water. And really bizarre to mow. So we jumped on the Slow-the-Flow bandwagon and ripped our strip. I wanted something in that area which was alive, but required little maintenance, which included water. We decided to transplant some ivy, growing profusely on the south end of the back yard without any help from us, into the park strip. Over the next few years, sections of this ivy flourished and looked beautiful, climbing and winding up the silly little catalpas trunks. The other half of the park strip was less desireable, sporting dead chunks of transplanted ivy. Every year it was the same. Transplant more ivy to bare areas. Watch ivy dry up and die. Despite the water and fertilizer I lovingly gave it. More dead ivy. While I know I'm not a green-thumb-make-everything-outside-gorgeous person, I enjoy growing things and felt like an absolute failure. So I decided to (finally) try something different. After attending a "Simple Solutions for Problematic Park Strips" class and going to the Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan, as well as the Central Utah Gardens in Orem, I realized my fatal flaw. Ivy is a shade plant and literally shrivels up when too much sunlight shines directly on it! The half of my park strip that is empty isn't a sign of my failure, the half that has ivy growing in it is actually a sign of my abilities and successes in the growing world! What I needed was an aesthetically complementary yet sun-loving groundcover which is tolerant of poor soil and drought to put in the patches of park strip where the ivy turned to dust. After much searching, I chose "Turkish Speedwell," a tiny dark green plant which spreads across the entire ground and produces a carpet of beautiful tiny little purpley blue flowers. You can see seasonal pictures of it at this link. I loved this plant at first sight when I saw it in the demonstration gardens, but the bright blooms made me think it required a lot of water or at least shade. Not so! According to one website, "this charmer is as tough as it is beautiful." Turns out it is a very desert-y non-water and sun-loving plant! So last week was action time. I dug out all the dead ivy and prepared the soil, then planted my little Turkish Speedwells. Miriam was a help, but Elijah tended to run down the sidewalk while we were working, so I did it mostly during naptime and after Brent got home from work so he could run after Eli. But my little plants are so dang cute! And I have such high hopes for their prolific survival! They're DESERT plants, after all! I just hope they feel happy and at home in my park strip. Because I sure feel happy with them! It is my summer project to keep them alive and make my park strip a beautifully low-maintenanced area. I'll keep you all updated whether you like it or not ;).

Here is a shot of the entire park strip. You can see some of the bare spots up close, then again surrounding most of the area around the 3rd and 4th tree. You can also see the loveliness of the ivy winding up the tree. I really do love that part.

Here is an above-shot of one patch of my newly planted plants with the soaker hose winding around them to help them get established.

One already has a bloom! SUCCESS!!

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