Hellstrip gardens


What do you grow in your hellstrip? (You know, that awkward arid space between road and sidewalk? The one that gets liberally salted in the winter in cold areas?)

If you’re doing something more than just crispy grass… do you have local or utility laws that you have to navigate as you plant? What about neighbors?

Inspiration gardens or books you love?



I don’t have one (no sidewalks on my street), but if I did I would plant creeping thyme and creeping sedums.


Currently mostly daylilies, but gradually mixing things up with some blue flag iris, cranesbill geraniums, anemone canadensis, heliopsis, and garlic chives (the last two volunteered). Kind of seeing what works and what doesn’t and still looking for other ideas.


The hellstrip was the last gardening project I started to work on, and it’s very much a work in process.

We have a town ordinance related to utilities: no taller than 12 inches and no deep roots. Neighbors sometimes have a stand of flowers around the mailbox, otherwise it’s grass only all up and down the street.

Right after moving in I sprinkled the hellstrip liberally with poppies, dwarf cosmos, and White Dutch clover. The poppies needed the cold winter to pop up this year. I don’t know what happened to the dwarf cosmos, but I got impatient and planted regular cosmos and realized how huge they grow; lesson learned!

I would like a bit more structure so it looks orderly enough that neighbors might consider joining in with hellstrip reclamation… but I’m not sure what yet.


Any chance you have photos? That sounds gorgeous.

What kind of daylilies?

I’ve planted blue flag iris seeds and bulbs without results yet, but I’m hopeful. Iris has such lovely mounds of leaves, even when there are no flowers.

I hadn’t looked at cranesbill geraniums. Thanks for the idea. How tall does yours get in the hellstrip? The internet thinks it is 9-18 inches.

The Canada anemone can handle the dryness in a hellstrip?

Creeping thyme and sedum are classics!

My creeping thyme has stubbornly refused to creep, it’s just a squatting thyme. :upside_down_face:

Looks like you’re off to a good start!

Our sidewalk garden is partly shaded (and rooted) by a couple of mature maple trees, so it’s a little different in that way.

Most of our daylilies are the old school orange ones. I planted them a couple years ago and they did pretty well last summer.

The geraniums grew maybe 9-12" for the foliage and maybe 18" for the flowers. Something like that anyway. In spite of a rough transplantation, they seem to be doing ok, though I think I may end up moving them around and possibly elsewhere.

I just planted the canada anemone this past fall so it’s yet to be determined whether it works or not. But my thinking was that it might be good to mix in something that would pick up the slack in the spring when the daylilies haven’t gotten going yet. I put the anemones in one of the more shaded parts of the strip, so hopefully they’ll have a fighting chance anyway.


I like chicory for a plant that seems to want to live in the worst conditions. It feeds birds, bees and all kinds of stuff.

If you water it or it gets water… i really am impressed by Jacobs Cline Beebalm. I have it on a bank that has nothing but rock structure… the beebalm is thriving in the cracks and upper crust where leaves and weeds die.

I need to take a picture of a butterfly bush that i found last month. Its growing in the crack of a building where the bricks have left a small gap…it obviously is surviving on dust and hopes and dreams. Totally amazing thing to see.


I would grow a lot of herbs, but I don’t have any spare space really.


I had a fantastic hellstrip with 100’s of bulbs (the strip is 2 feet wide, 45 feet long) and great perennials.

The city and I have had a couple run-ins. I pointed out their own laws prohibit depositing snow onto the strip and a few photos of their plows doing just that ended the run-ins.

The city re-did the road 2 years ago and I lost a couple of things that I haven’t been able to replace, but the bulbs I did replace. The design is far better now and I have an Xeriscape area near a (new) fire hydrant.

I do lament losing my clematis scottii as this (North American ) native is remarkably difficult to replace. I’d have dug it out, but the published timeline wasn’t adhered to. (anyone seen this in their local garden center?)



We removed all the grass and planted jujubes, herbs, and peaches. No salted roads here. Tried to remove the cable box too but alas Spectrum refused to cooperate.


@IntrepidNewbie Did you remove all of the grass before planting flowers?

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they salt here, it’s all crabgrass and skeleton rush weed and scotch broom. I keep trying to put poppies, bachelor buttons, mint, ANYTHING. it’s full sun, nearly no water though.

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I live in a rural area, so no sidewalks or hellstrips, but if I had a space like this to plant in, I would stick to flowers instead of herbs. I would be concerned about planting anything that I plan on consuming so close to the road where it could become polluted.

I really like what you’ve done in your area and hope that your neighbors will join in!


No I didn’t - my strategy is to wait for grass to die and plant clover. I just don’t have the ability to dig up grass, and landscaping costs around here are crazy high.

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Perhaps you could rent a sod remover next time. Alternatively, you could tarp or cardboard it for a few months, then plant into it.

I start tarping/mulching areas on my farm in the fall (still working on some areas now) in preparation for spring/summer planting.

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I agree with you. I don’t put anything edible that close to the road (salt, oil, general filth) or sidewalk (unless it’s raised above the level a dog can pee). I want food to be set back.

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That sounds amazing. 45’ long and full of flowers? Gorgeous.

I didn’t know what this was so I looked it up. It’s beautiful!


Mine pushed a dozen buds its last year, but only 1 fully developed…

Its one of my top few (or so) plant lusts…

I also had one of these…(not in the hellstrip, though there is a 7 foot poncirus trifoliate just on the other side of the sidewalk nearby)

hardy citrus, contorted, variegated. poncirus

That’s #1 on my lost list… (this one was stepped on by a cable guy who split off the graft.)

I love it because it is a south facing strip. I get flowers in spring well before anyone else. Lavender does very well in these places (dry, warm…)

Best performer this year was

Judith’s Favorite flower…

Its planted in sandy soil below 1.5 inches of pea gravel in a non-western zone 6 climate. Lets see how it overwinters this year. There are lewesia in that same area (xeriscope area is approx 25 sp feet with guara and then the lavender. There are foxtail lilies and amethyst in snow bluetts [](Centaurea Amethyst In Snow -- Bluestone Perennials I have these replacing my poppies in the spring (and the poppies replace hyacinths).

because they replaced the road, the hellstrip (which is how I lost stuff) and the sidewalks I know exactly what the substrate is.

In such areas, always remember…Sedums are your friends. I am rarely a fan of stone mulches, but in these areas they can make sense.