Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Full Entry Along a Busy Highway-Landscaping a Driveway Area

Here in upper Middle Tennessee, just like in many areas of the country, we experience droughts and harsh growing conditions for our plants. No area of the garden can be harsher than the area by the driveway entry point for your property (if you live-like me-on a state highway or any road but not in a subdivision). My driveway area is an area I do not like to spend time in gardening but I still want it to look nice for when I come home and for my neighbors to enjoy as they pass the house.
Prickly pears are but one plant that can not only thrive in harsh growing conditions (think no water, red clay and rocks mixed with gravel, sloping areas, periods of heavy rain and even flooding due to the drainage ditch, heavy piles of snow pushed on it during the winter, and the smog and pollution from motorists passing by) but can laugh in the face of adversity. I love this plant-but! It is not a plant you would want to plant where you do heavy gardening due to the prickly side of the 'pear'. This plant is native to our country and is very easy to grow. I got my starts from a fellow gardener who handled her prickly pears with long tongs and gloves. She told me, "Just simply lay the pad on the ground and it will grow.". Now four years later she was right and I have a thriving community of prickly pears growing on either side of my driveway. 

I chose to highlight the blooms of prickly pears because if there is one fault the prickly pear have it is that their blooms last but a day. They do have several blooms though so the show lasts for as many days as you have buds and blooms. The bright yellow is an eye catcher in the garden and alongside the roadway. Here I have paired my prickly pears with other tough perennials such as artemesia and 'Adam's Needle' yuccas. Let's look at the long shot of the driveway area.
My driveway is flanked with large wagon wheels Mr. Fix-it and I picked up at an antique store in Enterprise Alabama. The south is the best place to find cool ornaments for garden decorations and I find Alabama to be a great state to find some really useful things for my garden. The entire area along side my driveway was torn up two years ago when the local water company installed a new water line. My garden seems to have recovered okay but at the time I did not think it would ever bounce back and in fact, the area has not totally recovered as we see in the next few pictures. The above picture shows the left side of the driveway as you enter it from the roadway. The house pictured is my neighbor's house. She has moved away now and I do miss her. While my neighbor lived there if I ran out of spots to garden I would go over into her yard. There are many plants in her garden compliments of Tiger Gardens. I smile knowing they have homes that I could not provide for them here.
Here is the right side of the driveway looking toward my home. Both sides of my driveway are similar but not complete mirror opposites. The left side of the driveway has a shorter slope down to the drainage ditch whereas the right side has at least a four to five foot drop to the drainage ditch. I have tried to cascade 'Powis Castle' artemesia down the bank on both sides to help with covering the slope and to hold down erosion. Behind the artemesia are 5-6 yuccas on both sides of the driveway. They are in full bloom in these pictures. I love yuccas but wish they bloomed longer than one week. Again though, despite the short bloom times yuccas are right up there with the prickly pears in ease of care and structure in the garden. Both prickly pears and yuccas are evergreen and hold up year round. The 'Powis Castle' will stay looking nice until about January then it dies back a bit. To start the spring I simply give it a haircut. All three plants are the lowest maintenance plants in my garden-they require no additional watering and only the slightest bit of maintenance in the spring. (I cut the flowering stalks from the yuccas after the flower has passed by and trim the artemesia in February before new growth begins.)

Do you remember when I told you most of the area where the water company dug up has recovered? If you look on the bank to the right of the gray artemesia you will see bare soil that is pretty rough. Nothing seems to grow here except the occasional weed. It has been frustrating to me that this area has not greened up because it was green prior to the waterline install. It is, however, the right of way belonging to the state so I can't worry about it too much. 

A favorite groundcover of mine (for the right spot) is this yellow sedum 'Acre'. It is another low no care perennial that looks good most of the year. It does tend to fade away in the winter but returns vigorously in the spring. Sedum acre is an adaptable plant and will spread given the right conditions. Here it is spreading but not to the point it is irritating. In a garden location it would be though so I do not recommend for it to be planted in a garden area. It is very easy to get rid of if you do not like it. 

There are gardens directly behind the entry way on both sides of the driveway (Driveway Garden on the left and Front Roadside Garden on the right) but I have not highlighted those plants today. They do add to the overall look of the entryway though and are all low care perennials and shrubs. The primary plants I use by the road in harsh conditions in my garden are: 'Powis Castle' artemesis, 'Adam's Needle' yucca, prickly pear, and sedum 'Acre'....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. You picked some tough plants for a tough area Tina. It looks beautiful and I love the fence & wagon wheels, very nice. :)

  2. It looks so good Tina and very inviting. I wonder what they did to the soil by the road? Hum, sounds like a challenge for you!

    I wish i were your neighbor. You could plant in my yard any time! Come on down now and help me plant the 30 or so things I need to plant today! LOL...

  3. Looks really good! Is this your 'hell strip'? I wonder if the sedum would grow in that bare spot to the right? I have it all through my gardens...sigh

  4. The wagon wheels provide the perfect accent for this area; great job in picking out just the right plants here. I always enjoy seeing a garden near the roadside where motorists can get a quick glimpse of something lovely. I was just thinking about my own small roadside garden yesterday and realizing that after trial and error I've come up with some pretty low-maintenance plants, too--for me, it's coneflowers, good old Stella daylilies and the baptisia. It has to be low-maintenance because it's a long walk to the end of my driveway, and I don't want to be out there weeding every day:)

    You asked me a couple questions yesterday, and I thought it would be easier to reply here. Yes, I became an "official" MG last year. Your 'Zephirine' rose must be doing much better than mine. I ordered mine from Wayside (because I had a gift certificate there), and within two weeks it was dead. When I called to get a replacement, they were all out, so I ordered a 'Don Juan' instead. When I went to yank out the 'Zephirine', though, I discovered new growth on it, so now I may have two climbers eventually! Neither are growing very quickly, though.

  5. Good morning all, still computer problems. Sometimes I teeottally do not like computers. Word of caution, if you don't have a virus protector-get one.

    Racquel, Glad you like it. It's finally coming along for me.

    Skeeter, I love to plant others yards-it's the maintenance that gets to me. I can plant just not maintain everything and that is a job. Have fun planting today.

    Darla, No hell strip here but the roadside area would be considered a hell strip I guess. I'm trying to spread acre around and hope it fills in out there-it beats the weeds any day.

    Rose, Sounds like you have some good low maintenance plants too. Plants can be accommodating. I wasn't sure if you had completed the internship so I asked. Sorry about your ZD. Mine surprised me by taking off and is blooming even now. It smells SO good and the no thorns is the best part. Don Juan is most pretty with those velvety flowers. Glad you have two now. Two climbers are better than one!

  6. I LOVE LOVE it! Cactus may not be for everyone, but I just love it! The Texas girl in me I suppose. You all did a great job Tina. I wold love to have an entry like that.

  7. You have made a tough gardening spot look very nice. What a wonderful welcome. Those are hardy plants. Beautiful blooms on the prickly pear and I love yuccas but you have to be sure you want one because they are a pain to remove. Awesome entrance.

  8. While our prickly pear DO root easily, they don't grow as large as yours! Those are beautiful. I admire your "eye" & selection of plants for your entry way. Very welcoming :)

  9. Really beautiful home and garden. I have never been able to grow cactus in my high altitude. Maybe I'll try this version again.

  10. Your prickly pear has come back bigger and better than ever. When you listed all the things the pear has had to endure and still grow well, you forgot being run over by a wayward car/truck. Have you heard from Uncle Rick, has he made it to NY?

  11. Linda, I just love that prickly pear-so easy but yes, watch out for those spines!

    GOSS, Yes indeed on the yuccas! Once planted you can never get rid of them. I get mine from a friend who bought a house with them planted there and she hates the yuccas. She digs or I dig them up and move them here and still they come back. They are like the plant that won't die but ever so good for hard spots.

    Rebecca, This area evolved naturally and has worked out. I wish I had had a plan for it. You know my prickly pear get knocked down so badly by the winters it seems like they would never recover but do. I love those blooms so much! Have you eaten prickly pear? Awful tasting stuff.

    Alexis E. The prickly pear is quite hardy but I bet at high elevations you might have a lot of snow? That would make growing cactus difficult I can imagine. Loved your purging post this morning.

    Mom, Yes, these drivers around here I tell you. So far no more errant and sleepy drivers have wound up in the garden-knock on wood! Uncle Rick and the two amigos are at their destination. They'll be checking in the hotel soon and hanging out. I guess they'll be heading up your way Sunday. They are having a good time and I hear my teenager is a new person. I hope so because, well, teens!

  12. Thanks for the update. I guess Uncle Rick is doing okay then. I was worried about him traveling. He said he was not bringing his wheelchair and I think that is a mistake.

    Yup, I am not so old I do not remember what it was like to have teens!!!! Now that my 4 female teens are all grown up and happy, self supporting, smart, wonderful daughters, I sure am glad I have all girls. BUT, I SURE WOULD HAVE TRADED FOR 4 BOYS WHEN YOU ALL WERE TEENS!!!!! NO DOUBTS THERE!!!!!

  13. Oh darn I got so excited about teens, I forgot to say that I hope you remembered to send a prickly pear with them for your sister and mother. :)

  14. No on the prickly pear. I totally forgot. I can box some up soon and send it to you that way. It will be okay. I did send you a few plants though, beautyberry, bloodroot, and sea oats.

  15. Great plants for that area. Looking fabulous!

    At the North Carolina zoo, they grow salvia greggii (which I grow) with the cacti (which I don't grow) so your post is inspiring to add more tough plants.

  16. Tina your driveway entry looks great. Love the use of the cactus and yucca with the wagon wheels. I will have to try that yellow sedum. It looks like a really nice ground cover.

  17. Evening all.
    Tina that is a wonderful array of plants for your drive. I didn't realize your house was that close to the highway. Your gardens looks so large. I have a sedum that I brought back from N.C. in window boxes {every other one} on my chain link fence. It has tiny yellow blooms. It could be used as a ground cover.
    Funny, I noticed Moos Rose {all colors} growing in one. Yippeeee,
    I can't do much with stickers, they get me every time. lol
    I wouldn't mind driving by your home & seeing all that roadside beauty.

  18. Those plants all sound good to me, thanks. Just wanted to let you know that Dawn has a post ready to go for tomorrow, well darn it is now for today. Guess it is time to go check facebook and get to bed.

  19. I must search for this plants as our driveway also receive harsh conditions every summer. Nothing is happy there except rosemary at the moment. You did a very marvellous work on that spots. You always have amazing ideas.

  20. What a lovely home you have Tina. To me the prickly pear cacti and Yuccas look exotic. they would never survive in my climate. I think they look great wether they are in flower or not.

  21. I remember you posting about that roadside digging project Tina. Sorry to hear your area hasn't completely recovered. You're smart to not worry too much tho since it is the State right of way. No need to work really hard on it only for them to dig it up again!
    I think your current driveway is very attractive AND functional. Good choices to achieve the goal you were going for...

  22. I really like the compostion of that driveway entrance. Do you know there are "prickless" prickly pears? One is called 'Smooth Tail', but there are others. They are just as easy to grow as the others. I planted one by the front sidewalk after pulling out a particularly thorny orange flowered prickly pear. I thought it would be safer for all the kids in the neighborhood.