Aurinia

Aurinia, or basket of gold. 

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

What’s growing in your curb? Typically in most neighborhoods the narrow strip of soil between sidewalk and street curb is made up of a ragtag mixture of parched turfgrass and a good bunch of weeds.

These areas are not, by any means, prime gardening spots. Usually they consist of very dry, compacted soil heated by nearby pavement in summer and, in winter, mounded with salt and sand. Another constraint is that they’re often subject to city and/or neighborhood association requirements about plant selection and height, which can vary greatly from one city to another, one neighborhood to another.

With all the problems and constraints they pose, they tend to be given as little attention and effort as possible. The truth is, however, that they are the most public and visible portion of your yard and ultimately the most “neighborly” part of your landscape.

Once you’re aware of restrictions, what plants might be best for that tough environment? At best, they have to be plants that can tolerate heat and drought and are easy to care for. Shorter ornamental grasses like sideoats or blue grama, prairie dropseed, junegrass or little bluestem are good options, as well as sun-loving sedges. Other prairie-tough plants and combinations that can survive these harsh conditions include:

*Fremont’s clematis, creeping phlox and basket-of-gold

*Bluebird’ aster, ‘Eureka’ gayfeather and dwarf spiderwort

*Shell-leaf penstemon and pale purple coneflower

*Missouri primrose, purple poppy mallow and dwarf blue indigo

*Butterfly milkweed and dwarf leadplant

*Upright prairie coneflower and rattlesnake master

*Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, ‘Husker Red’ penstemon and black-eyed Susan

* ‘October Skies’ aster, dotted gayfeather and little bluestem

*More options: blue flax, yarrow, salvia, catmint, gaillardia, candytuft, ballonflower, Artemisia, sedum and hardy geranium

While our backyards tend to be sanctuaries of privacy, beauty and outdoor living, whatever effort you make in that tough little strip in the front yard is ultimately a gift to the neighborhood, and one that will be enjoyed by far more people than you might realize.

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