Sometimes we are really tested as landscape designers and horticulturists. One common challenge that we encounter is getting plants to grow in parkways, especially in urban neighborhoods. Large, mature street trees, often with shallow roots and a dense canopy such as Norway Maples, rob a site of sun, moisture and nutrients. Even with these less than ideal growing conditions, we have found certain plants can grow in these conditions. Some iron-clad, shade-tolerant examples include English Ivy, Purpleleaf Wintercreeper, and Hosta. These and other plants are able to tolerate harsh, often inhospitable conditions such as salt, dry soils, compaction, foot traffic, dogs, dense shade, snow load and shallow roots.
Below, a sunny, lawn-free front yard exudes appeal all the way out to the street with a parkway planting of Zagreb Coreopsis, Summer Beauty Allium and Spirea. A carriage walk of irregular flagstone stepstones provides a firm surface to walk on while entering and exiting cars.
Parkway corners are great places to convert lawn areas into interesting, colorful places. Here, a street corner bed of lawn was replaced with a lively planting of Walker’s Low Catmint, Summer Beauty Allium and Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass. Enclosed by sidewalks and streets, such plants thrive in tough locations that are subject to heavy snow load and road salt in winter.
Plantings in parkways are more colorful, attract birds and butterflies and are more diverse than a monoculture such as grass. Here, three island beds brighten a partly shady parkway with Twist ‘n’ Shout Hydrangea, Caramel Coralbells, Barrenwort, Bergenia, Hakone Grass and May Night Salvia.
Often, our clients just want to eliminate lawn and its continuous need for watering, mowing and fertilization. This corner property has a side parkway of low-maintenance Daylilies, Walker’s Low Catmint and Vinca. Note the rectangular pavers along the curb, which allow visitors room for stepping into and out of their parked cars.