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Hellstrip Gardening – Highlights, and Giveaway

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One of many fabulous hellstrip gardens on Buffalo’s Garden Walk.

How could I NOT love Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb?  The subject is fun and inspiring, and I’m a long-time fan of author Evelyn Hadden, whose earlier book about Beautiful No-Mow Lawns I reviewed here.)

But this isn’t a “review.”  (They’re usually so boring!)  Instead, I offer highlights of the book based on my own adventures in hellstrip gardening.  Scroll down for how to win a copy.

– I love the book’s thesis, that “such small places can change a home, a neighborhood, and a community.”  Hellstrip gardening is a particularly generous form of gardening, “bringing nature’s beauty to the street where we can all appreciate it.”  Thank-yous from passersby prove that point, and are wonderful to hear.

– Evelyn is encouraging and enthusiastic, never preachy.  Thank God!  So she’ll say “Give that left-over a make-over” or encourage us to convert “unused, unloved lawns” to “appealing and useful gardens.”  Carrot, not stick.

Hellstrip Gardening tells stories of real gardeners across the country.  My favorites may be the couple in Seattle who practice “extreme gardening” by wearing headlamps to squeeze in more work hours after dark.  Hey, where can I buy one of those?

– The book is honest, particularly about the maintenance involved in, say, turning sod into a perennial-filled garden.  (It’s more work, not less.)  So, providing accurate information trumps advocacy.

– All the essential how-to bits are covered – like dealing with local ordinances and the best way to remove sod.

– The book’s lists of which plants to include and which to avoid are right-on, based on my experience.

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My former hellstrip garden in Takoma Park.

– The hellstrip garden I created is shown on page 163!  All the plants there were freebies – extras from the large back garden – so I didn’t worry if they were stolen or destroyed.  Turns out, no plants were ever taken and there was only one tall Sedum was damaged by a construction truck.

– Loved finding out about Seattle’s Pollinator Pathway project that uses curbside gardens to create pollinator corridors between public green spaces.

– Great examples from the two powerhouse cities of hellstrip gardening – Buffalo and Portland, OR!

Win a Copy

Edible kale and raspberries mingle with decorative coleus, fleeceflower, gazania, and grasses in a hellstrip garden alongside the parking lot of the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis.
Edible kale and raspberries mingle with decorative coleus, fleeceflower, gazania, and grasses in a hellstrip garden alongside the parking lot of the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis.
Here's the author in her other life, as headliner for the Ev Hadden Band.
Here’s the author in her other life, as headliner for the Ev Hadden Band.

Just leave a comment about hellstrip gardens and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of Hellstrip Gardening, chosen at random.  Entries close next Friday May 30 (2014) at midnight.  Only locals can win, though, because they’ll need to pick up the book at one of the Behnkes locations.

Posted by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. I have been using the county strip, the Hell Strip, to grow native plants for about 5 years. I have 5 different kinds of Solidago! I also like to scatter herbs and vegies throughout, as sort of a surprise…

  2. Just think how beautiful our everyday world would be if more of us gardened the hell strips near our homes. Go ahead do it. The journey begins with the first step (or plant)!

  3. Sounds GREAT. I have more “hellstrip” than anything else and can really use some inspiration. I hope there’s a section on shade — and one on deer.

  4. I’ve been planting on the shady side of my hell strip, but sunny side needs help, probably the sunniest area in my yard. Updating the shady is in order. So for both areas, some advice in the book would be helpful

  5. I have an 6″ by 20 ft strip covered, for now, with liriope. I’ll be looking for inspiration for more appealing options.

  6. We are on a corner and have a lot of hellstrip that I’ve been wanting to tackle, but I haven’t been quite sure where to start because we also host a bus stop and have a lot of sidewalk traffic. I’m so inspired by this book and blog post!

  7. I’m all for creating more beauty and visual interest wherever it can be fit in. I look forward to the talk.

  8. We left an area unmowed in the right of way on one side of our corner lot. We call it the “meadow”. This looks like a great resource to turn unmowed into something beautiful.

  9. A little bit of heaven in otherwise wasted space! Can’t wait to have a look at this book. And I’ll be adopting the headlamp approach to extend my gardening time.

  10. My hope is to turn my hellstrip into a butterfly garden by next summer. It’s about the sunniest spot and is currently uninspired grass and weeds that have crept in since our town tree was removed last year. Once it’s filled with pollinator friendly plants and prairie types, my hope is that people will pause to look and maybe even take a bit home with them to plant (milkweed pods, etc.). Can’t wait to see the book!

  11. Interesting post. There’s quite a few hellstrips in our neighborhood that could use a little bit of help.

  12. Last summer in the middle of the hot hot part (I must have been addled by the sun) , I converted the fireplug patch out front into a xeriscape garden. At the time, did not know the wonderful word Hellstrip. In spite of the poor timing for transplanting and all the salty snow last winter, it is already looking good. Let’s hope for a fire-free future!

  13. Such great ideas! I love the idea of “stealth” veggies – kale and rhubarb can be so decorative, but they’re also edible. Use every square foot, I say!

  14. Hellstrips in the city generally host trees as well as grass and weeds, and many of the tree roots are straining to grab as much soil and moisture as possible. How to plant gently and appropriately–how to know where to plant so as not to damage a poor, gnarled old tree–is information that would be very useful.

  15. We look forward to reading this book! The hell strip in front of our house is very blah and is begging for some cheerful plantings. We get a lot of pedestrian traffic and would love to put plants in that can take the traffic and make people smile. We’re especially interested in ideas for plants that have multiseason interest.

  16. I’ve been planting on our hells trip for several years. Makes such an amazing difference and give walkers-by a treat. Often drop seeds from “expired” packets, it’s always a surprise what will grow.

  17. Alas, I don’t have street frontage of my own, but I did scatter native flower seeds where Pepco’s pruning opened up the tree canopy around town.

  18. Looking forward to this project! I’m interested in creative ideas for pathways and stepping areas between the plants. Hoping that would allow some taller plant options.

  19. Someone was reading my mind! I’m planting natives in the small remaining sunny areas of my garden, planting the ‘hellstrip’ will open up new opportunities. ‘Look forward to the show and tell and tips in the book to do it right! Now to deal with the deer…

  20. Inspiring! Maybe I can get some wonderful ideas for the two narrow hellstrips alongside my townhouse driveway. will definitely attend Saturday!

  21. Everyone, I want to thank you all for your enthusiastic response to the book! It was fun meeting some of you at Behnke’s — hoping to see more hellstrip (or “tree box” as we call it here in the DC area) gardens when I visit next.

    Also thanks to Behnke’s for hosting me. What a fun place to wander; I especially enjoyed the demonstration garden full of low groundcovers.

  22. Ideas so good i wish I had a hellstrip! Not that I don’t have an area as difficult as a hellstrip.

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