My First Highway Garden

img 1420 1024x477 My First Highway Garden

I was encouraged recently to lead the charge designing and installing a roadside park on an abandoned field for Rebuilding Together. I joined up with Rebuilding Together Baltimore, a national non-profit organization focusing on community revitalization projects, to brighten up the entrance to the community of Dundalk, Maryland.

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Working together with community organizers and a county planner, I came up with a design for the field that would incorporate flower beds along the roadside to welcome people to the community, and open turf space for picnics, and play areas for the neighborhood kids.  When I first walked the field to take measurements with the county planner the field was overgrown with ornamental grasses, and weeds up to 6 feet tall, with furniture, and all sorts of other odds and ends dumped in it. The field was about 60 feet wide and 115 feet long, so there was a lot of space to fill once it was cleared out, and only $2000 worth of budget money for the entire project.

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The volunteersof Americorps pitched in to initially clear the field, and I set to work designing a flower bed for full sun, that would be drought tolerant, and self seeding.  I broke the length of the field into several sections, and created three beds approximately 25 feet wide, and 10 feet deep, ten feet back from the road.  I spaced the beds 10 feet apart from each other to allow for air flow, and to break up the flowers a bit, creating the appearance of a fuller and larger garden overall.

Since the beds themselves would be very large I chose to focus on mass plantings of only 7 varieties of plants, arranging them in ways that would keep the eye moving, while providing blooms from spring through fall. The perennials I chose were Daylilys, Autumn Joy Sedum, Black Eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers, Yarrow, Coral Bells, and Liatris. All of these plants do well in poor soil, are drought tolerant, and spread on their own.  En mass these plants will stand out on the side of the highway, and over the next two years will fill in any spaces between each other to create a really full appearance.

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The design I created is pictured above, including the Euonymous bushes, and Crepe Myrtle Trees that provide the background to this garden, and the natural privacy fence for the open field behind them.


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All together we planted 520 plants, leveled the newly cleared field, planted grass seed, fertilized the area, and covered the field with straw in only a few hours.





I’ll be sure to include pictures soon with the garden filled out this summer, so you can see how it matured! Below is the entire field and garden bed when we finished 6 hours later.

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My Native Plant Spring Project

img 1326 My Native Plant Spring Project

I’ve been a little antsy for warm weather to start for some time, and this year I’ve converted a baker’s rack in my office at work into a greenhouse nursery for native plants to help me get a jump start on some habitat restoration goals I set for myself! This spring and summer I’m growing five varieties of Maryland native wildflowers from seed to begin a new wave of improvements in naturalized spots that I safeguard – many of which are in desperate need of beneficial plants, and a few aesthetic points!

The two Maryland counties that I work in require all developing properties under construction to set aside a fraction of their land as either virgin woodland, or designated  Reforestation Area.  Most of these Reforestation Areas in the suburbs happen around the borders of communities, or around sewer water retention ponds, and walking paths. At the initial time of construction, landscape architects develop these areas and fill them with native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses, and after a few years of healthy growth many of them take on a rather scruffy natural patina that many people enjoy as a contrast to the manicured lawns and gardens nearby. Like other areas after construction, Reforestation Areas are sometimes stripped of topsoil in the building and creation phases of a neighborhood, and little other than grasses end up surviving in the fill-dirt left behind. I’ve been working on and around several pockets of protected reforestation land for several years, and trying to strike a balance the desires of homeowners who want to visually improve the areas with their own garden plants, and the state law, which requires zero human interference here, and it can be a difficult balance to strike.

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