The Driveway Garden

the driveway garden (1)
I have a whole lot of landscape surrounding my driveway. Why so?  I drive up and drive out of  it at least 2 times a day, maybe more. There are plenty of other places in my garden that I see only intermittently.  An example that explains how frequent visitation drives design-see the following.  As my house is on a corner, I drive by the front door every day. This is a drive by, not a visit. Until the hydrangeas come into bloom, I am only in that garden to water the pots.  Let’s go to the back door. Lots of traffic there. My driveway is a daily experience.  I suppose I could remove my driveway, as neither Buck nor I use the garage to house cars. I could do a narrow walk to the curb. But that makes getting groceries inside or taking the trash out a challenge.  A driveway makes the transportation of vehicles, and items in and out easy. Given its size and function, it is also easy for a driveway to be unsightly. By that I mean, untouched by a landscape. A great driveway landscape is a quality of life issue.  It should make you reluctant to leave home in the morning, and happy to get home at night.

the driveway garden (10)My landscape crowds my driveway, both on the ground plane, and overhead. I I have trees that arch over both sides of my drive.  This means I have birds singing here in the morning and evening.  New to the driveway trees this past week-a solitary catbird. I only prune when Buck complains he can’t walk by, or the branches scrape up against my car.  4 Parrotias, 3 magnolias and 4 dogwoods.  My driveway garden is congested.  Lots of trees over a drive minimizes a big utilatarian paved space, and goes on to celebrate the garden.  There are yews, both upright and spreading.  There are garden spaces too.  Hellebores, hostas and butterburrs.  In a sunnier spot, there are delphiniums, nepeta, adenophora and alchemilla early on, and phlox and white hibiscus.  It has a weedy and relaxed look.  The lime green of the alchemilla flowers is especially pretty right now.

June 23, 2014 (90)My driveway landscape is a big fluid mix of plants.  This is an effort to make the driveway the least important visual issue, in spite of the need for a car park.  The driveway is necessary, yes. Is the driveway the most important issue in the landscape?  I think not. I would suggest that a thoughtful and beautiful landscape could make the necessity of a driveway a treasured feature. To follow is my take on that driveway. Let’s get back to that expresion of lime green.  The flowers of alchemilla mollis- so beautiful. Other sources of that lime green come from variegated lily of the valley, hosta montana variegata, and gold drop hostas.

the driveway garden (4)What looks like a brick driveway is in fact a concrete brick manufactured by Unilock called Capthorne.  This material looks like it might have been original to my 1930’s home. Whomever designed this driveway in the beginning did a great job.  The drive to the street is in the top left of this picture.  The landscape completely shields it from the view presented by my deck. The parking area looks a lot more about piazza than parking.  I have planted the driveway pots with much the same color scheme as the landscape.

the driveway garden (5)Lots of green. And even more lime green. The driveway garden has a lot of old Sum and Substance hosta, which foreshadow the lime green Princeton Gold maples, and the lime sagina subulata in the upper level fountain fountain.

the driveway garden (6)The lime green in the pots is coming from Wasabi coleus, variegated white sunpatiens, creeping jenny, variegated licorice, and several lime green tropical plants whose names I cannot remember. I am not so concerned if I cannot name a plant.  I am very concerned if I cannot put together a garden that is cohesive.  So many great gardeners I know have no knowledge of the botanical names.  Sometimes, they have no names of any sort.  But they know how to make things grow.  That said, I have plants whose names are unknown to me in my driveway pots.

the driveway garden (3)I aspire to the making things grow group.  The design of my driveway garden pots needs to reflect the landscape all around. This means, to some degree, that I choose plants by instinct.  Plants that strike my fancy.  As this is my home landscape, I have no one to answer to beyond myself.

the driveway garden (7)I do strongly feel that container plantings are an opportunity for any gardener to express themselves in a seasonal way. My driveway landscape has been many years in the making.  The pots and annual plants in the ground is my opportunity to change things up. A chance to make a statement. Go in whatever direction suits me at the time. I have planted my driveway with lots of different schemes over the years.  I like the yearly chance to re imagine.

the driveway garden (2)This year, the lime represented by the green and gold plectranthus, the nicotiana lime, and the variegated sunpatiens, is enough lime green to please me.  The one nicotiana mutabilis in a sea of lime green is an outlier.  I try to design for that. The warm yellow wall looks so great, dressed in lime green.

the driveway garden (9)I have worked for years to make the driveway landscape more visually important than the driveway.  This year, I am pleased all around with the results.  Everything in the landscape takes years to settle in.  In  my mind, everything is working together.

Sept 8, 2013 (192)
Tonight,  both Howard and I have cause to celebrate.

Finishing Up

I have been working steadily on the landscape for this client for the past 6 years; every year we have done something.  The driveway garden we saved for last.  Her youngest daughter loves basketball-we could not take the driveway mounted basketball hoop down until she was ready for college-Jenna has just moved out.  The concrete driveway was almost 30 years old.  My client chose to replace it with concrete aggregate.  Concrete embedded with gravel has a much dressier look.  Why would we be looking for a dressier look?  The driveway landscape gets visited every day, sometimes multiple times a day. This is one spot that should always look great.    

Given that the basketball hoop was coming down, an entire 10′ by 30′ section of concrete could be removed all together.  This 300 square feet would become a perennial garden.  The new drive had an 18″ border defined by a substantial expansion joint, filled with a rubber filler material.  The pattern visually breaks up the large expanse of concrete.   

The driveway went in April 16-20th.  Given our relentless spring rain, and the advent of annual planting season, we only got back to finish this project a week ago.  This is a simple perennial garden-only tried and true white flowers.  White hardy hibiscus, white knockout roses, Casablanca lilies, white echinacea, Becky shasta daisies and white astilbe.  My client will not want to tinker with this-her tinkering focus is firmly fixed on her containers.

Nothing much is revealed during  the trip up the drive. This is deliberate.  The arborvitae in the back of the garden is faced down by green velvet boxwood in the front.  The perennial garden is planted in between the evergreens.  This will make for a finished and polished look in the winter-and a sumptuous look in summer.  

Eventually the tall perennials will make themselves known during the summer months.  But for the roses, all else will be cut down in late fall. 

A pair of Belgian oak boxes stained a black brown have been on the rear terrace for a few years.  I brought them out front to provide accompaniement to this garden. I like seeing annual plants in proximity to a perennial garden-they  bloom on and on, no matter the status of the perennials. 

A decomposed granite path leads to the rear yard.  I got rid of all of the grass here-what a nuisance it would be to cut grass in this small space.  Anything I design, I ask myself what will be involved to maintain it.  Let me explain.  Anything difficult or beyond too challenging to maintain means that failure and frustration is bound to loom large. I like any design to be friendly and doable.      

We stuffed the Belgian boxes full of white annuals-white mandevillea, angelonia, Sonata cosmos, petunias, variegated trailing plectranthus, euphorbia Diamond Frost and silver dichondra. They looked great the day we planted.  Better days are to come. 

I took this picture the first time I ever saw this property.  Before the pool, and the pool house.  Before the arborvitae hedge. Before the cypress deck, and the stainless steel fire bowl.  Before we took down the basket ball hoop, and replaced the drive.  Before we tore out the pressure treated lumber deck.   A great landscape takes time.  A big block of time. My advice?  Take whatever time your dream takes.