From Hellstrip to Heavenly

We all have challenging areas in our landscapes, but perhaps one of the toughest is the proverbial "hellstrip", that narrow planting bed sandwiched between the road and the sidewalk. To passers-by and visitors alike this appears to be part of YOUR landscape simply by virtue of its proximity. It has to tolerate foot-traffic, swinging car doors, and inquisitive, bladder-heavy dogs. It rarely has irrigation and invariably the surrounding concrete and asphalt reflects so much heat that it truly earns its devilish nickname.


A multi-species, low-growing succulent tapestry will tolerate light foot traffic, although a flagstone landing makes it clear where to cross to the sidewalk.

Homeowners have two basic options:
  1. Ignore it (and hope you are not seen as the responsible party…) or
  2. See this as a fun challenge – within certain parameters.
What parameters? Usually the City owns these hellstrips and has right of way over them. So should they need to dig it up to access pipes or cables they are entitled to do so. Rules vary but the City of Berkeley for example states that "…an easement is granted to the adjacent property owner for "permitted" uses. Permitted uses include planting shrubs and flowers. However, written permission is required to plant, prune or remove City trees (as provided by the Berkeley Municipal Code, chapter 12.44). By default, all trees growing in the City right-of-way are property of the City of Berkeley whether or not they were planted with a permit. The city assumes responsibility for the trees and has an active program to ensure they are properly maintained." In other words call or email your City to find out your local regulations but in most cases this is prime real estate hat is avaiable for improving the curb appeal of your home.

Salt Lake City Solutions

Burgundy Bunny fountain grass adds wonderful fall color and texture.

I was at a garden writer's conference in Salt Lake City, Utah last week and had the opportunity to explore many neighborhood gardens. This hellstrip in the Daybreak community really caught my eye as it was
  1. Low enough so as not to be in the way of car doors
  2. Drought tolerant
  3. Wonderfully colorful
  4. Diverse both in species and texture
  5. Could withstand occasional foot or paw traffic (or worse)

The flagstone landing repeats the materials used in the adjacent landscape.

It was also thoughtfully designed to provide easy access to the sidewalk by virtue of a broad flagstone landing (much more efficient than stepping stones).

Curb Appeal

A well-designed front garden is enhanced and visually expanded by thoughtful inclusion of the adjacent hellstrip

Perhaps the most important bonus was the curb appeal it added to the home. By visually connecting the style, colors, plant palette, and materials to the adjacent landscape this median planting strip now blended seamlessly, blurring the property boundaries, and giving an immediate sense of pride-of-ownership.

Resources for More Ideas

Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb   by Evelyn Hadden (Timber Press, 2014) Pinterest (search for hellstrip gardening)   P.S. Remember that success will mean matching your plant selection to your geographical location in terms of soil, climate, and light conditions.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links

Subscribe to Receive Blog Posts

Gardening inspiration delivered right to your inbox from Le Jardinet

Designing Fall Combos

Pathway covered in leaves from red maple in October

It's that time of year when I'm dodging rain showers in the garden and preparing for cooler days ahead while enjoying the rich colors of autumn that still have me reaching for my camera. The best fall gardens are those which celebrate the season with bold combinations and dramatic vignettes. Here are some tips to…
Read More

Hedgehogs, Floral Tapestries, and Design Inspiration from Harlow Carr

One of four public gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society, Harlow Carr is set in the beautiful English countryside near Harrogate, Yorkshire, so of course I just had to visit while I was there a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure what to expect but found myself totally charmed and impressed by the varied…
Read More

Touchstones: Defining Moments

It took me by surprise. Unbidden, my eyes filled with tears and my voice became thick with emotion as I scanned the rolling hillside traversed by ribbons of drystack stone walls. Familiar silhouettes of majestic oak trees and horse chestnut trees dotted the pastoral landscape while berried hawthorns bejeweled every hedgerow. Flocks of sheep bleated…
Read More

What does deer-RESISTANT mean?

If you share your garden with deer, you'll be familiar with the term, and when shopping for plants have undoubtedly asked nursery staff for assistance in choosing things that are deer-resistant. Yet what does that really mean? Let's be clear: it does NOT mean deer-PROOF. With that out of the way let's dive a bit…
Read More

Deer-Resistant Containers: Before & After

I thought you might like to see how some of my summer container designs have grown in. All three designs are planted in full sun, are deer resistant, and low maintenance. The "After" images are approximately 6-7 weeks after planting. They all had Osmocote added as a slow release fertilizer when first planted but have…
Read More

Last Needle Hanging

Seen above in better days…. …but sadly a key plant in this scene has now become an embarrassing eyesore.  Time to take action! Out with the Old My Feelin' Blue deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara 'Feelin' Blue), carefully placed to the left of the cabin, started to feel a bit "off" last year – and turned…
Read More

Mission Impossible? Petunia Conversion!

"Oh boy," was my less-than-enthusiastic reaction when I opened the box of plants to trial from Proven Winners and saw several petunias. PINK petunias at that. I can't stand petunias. They get sticky, messy, don't deadhead politely, get covered in aphids, don't tolerate rain – and pink is NOT my color… As I donned my…
Read More

Watery Hues at Chanticleer

I'm sure you've heard of the renowned white garden at Sissinghurst. Even if you've never seen it in person there are countless images online depicting its quiet elegance. Does the idea of a monochromatic color scheme intrigue you but you're nervous to try it? Are you afraid it will lack interest? You're not sure which…
Read More

Renovation of a Mature Border – Part 1

Is your whole garden a place of beauty where butterflies sip, birds sing and you love to linger? Or do you have an area of your garden that is "just what it is". You neither love it, nor hate it – you just haven't got around to thinking about it? I do. This is the…
Read More

Plants for Procrastinators

Have you been caught with areas of your garden not quite summer-ready? Not ready to commit to what you really want in that empty spot? Do you have shrubs that will eventually fill the space – but are still rather small? Don't have the budget yet for that specimen tree you've got your eye on?…
Read More

Welcome to My Garden Adventures


I'm a serious plant-aholic. In other words I'm usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I'm truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.

Buy My Books Here!



Container Gardening Course

Enter KCHAPMAN20 to get 20% off

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Use the help of top home decorators to select matching bedside tables and a new lamp shade for your own bedroom design.
Collect and share photos of bathroom tile, bathroom vanities, shower curtains and bathroom mirrors to create your perfect home decorating style.

TV Interview