Let’s look again at the “hell strip”- that patch of your property between the road and the sidewalk. Hell strip plantings take all kinds of abuse but also are in a prime location for viewing. This time we gain inspiration from a darling tourist destination in northeastern Michigan. Germans settled Frankenmuth, MI in 1845 and have held on to some serious roots for 170 years. Fabulous planters, window boxes, and annual displays highlight the shops lining Main Street all year long. The result is a cheerful, dazzling display that might just be worth the work.
And it is work. The town maintains the hanging baskets and the hell strip plantings, and they do not mess around. The red truck in the image below waters the plants each day as needed, and one of the maintenance vehicles is outfitted with a boom so that the job requires only one employee. In summer the plantings are a wash of tropical foliage plants and annual color, and these plants require some serious care.
These plantings are like the antithesis to the golden drought-tolerant grasses we’ve seen elsewhere. Really, though, once you get the maintenance needs down, the display itself is compelling enough to consider babying a strip of your yard for a season. With a great planting media in place and good drainage, plants may really perform dazzlingly without much more attention than water.
If you want to work your hell strip with wild tropicals, consider really amending the soil that’s there. Add compost, keep the soil light and loamy, and mulch well. Consider a slow-release fertilizer and/or regular drenches with fertilizer. The plants will reward your hard work with a great display all summer long. The planting will keep lawn clippings and other debris from making its way to the storm drains, and best of all – it’s one less place you have to mow!
Michigan’s Little Bavaria was just amazing. The bright flowers, bold foliage, and beautiful combinations made me consider putting in the effort for a colorful tropical hellstrip planting.