Hell Strip Highlights for September
Holy cow, it’s September. Summer is still pushing back against the march of time, though. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful this weekend – cool and sunny. Then Monday turned into a hot and humid beast, which will apparently be prowling around Chicago until at least the middle of the week.
The parkway beds (or hell strip, as some call them) are shifting from their summer to their fall look. Over the last few years I’ve dug up all the parkway grass on both sides of the driveway and planted a mix of perennials, all of them cohabiting with volunteers plants that keep sneaking in from elsewhere in the garden. These beds are really still feeling their way.
I’m usually pleased with the ‘Matrona’ Sedum (S. telephium) I planted two years ago. I like how the flowers start out light pink and age to a deep maroon.
However, I was visiting a neighbor on Saturday and her ‘Matrona’ have huge flower clusters packed tightly together, which made me feel like a Sedum underachiever. I’m hoping mine look more like the neighbor’s as they mature.
The blue flowers of Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides – say that three times fast) are looking good. This ground cover was really slow to get established, but I’m very glad I planted it. Plumbago emerges late in spring and shines in the fall. It combines nicely with Orange Coneflower/Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida).
OK, so the really big hell strip news comes from the Lamppost Bed on the west side of the driveway. The picture above should look familiar – I posted it recently to show how the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) was flopping over disgracefully.
Well, the garden walk I took last week with Piet Oudolf (see last post) inspired me to take action. Life is too short to tolerate floppy grasses! Plus, one of my favorite garden centers was having a 20% off sale on perennials.
And so yesterday I found myself the proud owner of several ‘Standing Ovation’ Little Bluestem, which were planted as soon as I got home. Now, someone I trust told me that ‘Standing Ovation’ has a reliably upright habit. My first choice was ‘Blue Heaven’ (which is amazingly upright at the Lurie Garden), but that wasn’t in stock.
Checking out other retailers or ordering ‘Blue Heaven’ online was not an option, as it would have required delayed gratification.
Anyway, isn’t ‘Standing Ovation’ a beauty? Look at that color! And it should only get better later in fall.
I did feel momentarily guilty about spending more money on plants (budget? what’s a budget?). However, I reminded myself of all the things I hadn’t spent money on. For example, I never buy lottery tickets, something that could easily eat up $5-10 per day or more.
Thanks to gardening, that potential expense (and so many others) has been eliminated entirely! And so, if you look at the big picture, those gallon pots of Little Bluestem actually saved me thousands of dollars. The logic is undeniable.
What are the September highlights of your hell strip?