Hellstrip gardening is getting its due these days, thanks to Evelyn Hadden’s terrific new book on the subject, and Lauren Springer Ogden’s coining of the term in the first place.  And it starts a discussion about gardens that bring pleasure to not just the gardener, but the whole community.  Hellstrip gardeners are generous in that way.

But why stop at the hellstrip?  Any prominent location can be gardened for the benefit of neighbors and visitors, and it’s time to show off a street-side make-over I’ve been working on.


Above, the prominent street-side scene along the main road in my town, admittedly with the azaleas not blooming yet and the messy vines partially removed for the make-over, but you get the idea.  It’s not on my property but very close – my next-door neighbor’s.


Here’s what it looks like now, a result that didn’t cost a dime.  Plants were moved here from less prominent locations, give-aways from neighbors were added, and later this season we’ll all enjoy some ornamental grasses donated by High Country Gardens.

Now in its second full season, the garden is getting lots of attention and the homeowner is pleased as punch – predictable results from gardening in such a public spot.  So why is it that so many people express shock and wonder at the very notion of toiling on a bit of land you don’t actually hold title to?  We all benefit from beautification of public spots, right?  And I do include increasing property values in the calculation of the benefits – especially for spots near your own home, like this one.

Groundcover Sedums!

Groundcover sedums in perennial and shrub border

And how about the fabulous Sedum sarmentosums that are quickly covering the flat part of this little pocket garden, replacing the mess of vines that was once there?  They’re fabulous because first, they cost nothing, growing in the DC area as a weed or “volunteer.”

Groundcover sedums in perennial and shrub border

Secondly, they spread fast enough to fill in completely in one season, after planting 3-6 inches apart.  Above you see the brand-new section in the lower portion and last year’s section just above it.

And best of all, short, spreading Sedums require no mowing, no feeding, no watering after the first couple of times, and after they’ve filled in completely (which happens quickly), no weeding!  So why aren’t they being used more for spots like this?