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
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....
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