Last season we designed and installed curbside gardens in downtown Burlington that would replace the lawn hell-strip that runs along King St. and is owned by the Hinds Lofts apartments. The owners wanted a curbside planting along both the side of the building and the hell-strip that would allow stormwater to infiltrate but also be resistant to salt and allow for daily dog use. It had to remain fairly open for people parking on the street to navigate, and it had to be drought tolerant since no additional irrigation would be added. Here’s the design we came up with that we hoped would align with the tenants modern aesthetic – the grasses are Schizachyrium ‘Carousel’ a dwarf Little Bluestem. In this photo they are newly planted and more are scheduled to go in this year so eventually the space will get covered.
The movement to remove lawn turf in curbside gardens and replace it with dense planting is a trend happening across the country. A helpful book written by Evelyn J. Hadden, Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb, gives more specific guidance for anybody interested in taking on such a project themselves. Just be aware that usually there are lots of utilities under the surface and approval must be obtained by the City or town before you start digging.
Hell-strip plantings aren’t just standing on their good looks alone. Thousands of Curbside bioswales are planned for NYC to help reduce stormwater overflows into the Hudson River – a 5′ wide layered system can absorb up to 2,000 gallons of water every time it rains. Similarly an awesome design was done in 2014 for the College Street area of Burlington by Kevin Robert Perry, ASLA, and his firm called Urban/Rain. Kevin is an expert in Green Infrastructure and Artful Rainwater Design and his videos are worth watching:
Here are some more examples of attractive curbside plantings that I’ve seen in my travels, but you’ll notice that the first two apparently don’t have curb cuts that would allow surface water to run into them: