incrEDIBLE trail: Boulevards are a space for expansion

"Yes, the snowplows pile snow on them. No, that does not mean they are unusable."

First impressions matter. That is advice we have all heard, but apparently not accepted as worthy and usable. I am saying this because one of the first things we experience as we approach someone’s home is the boulevard. And this town is full of downright ugly boulevards.

I have inquired of several people why they do not create a garden in this valuable space. There are many reasons, but I will attempt to debunk them all.

Yes, the snowplows pile snow on them. No, that does not mean they are unusable.

You would need to avoid sculptured plants that would loose their appeal if a branch were broken by heavy snow. Perennials that die to the ground every winter work very well in the boulevard. They don’t care how many feet of snow gets dumped on them.

Bulbs also would pop up in spring no worse for the assaults of the plows.

How can people that park on the road access the front door?

This is where cleverness and fun enters the boulevard. Make a couple of walkways through the space. In my boulevard, I used a combination of brick, rock, concrete, and ornaments to create two walkways. This mixed material works because the garden is mixed perennials in a cottage garden style. Simple gravel or stepping stones would work. Or get real fancy by creating a mosaic in concrete. Obviously, you could just make a concrete sidewalk.

It is a difficult site to grow plants in was one excuse for avoiding the boulevard. Not so if you plant wisely. There are many very good looking plants that will tolerate a boulevard’s sometimes harsh conditions. A short list of drought tolerant, sun loving plants would include achillea, dianthus, perennial alyssum, Russian sage, rudbeckia, echinacea and sedum.

Shade tolerant plants in the event that your boulevard has big trees would include ferns, hellebores, astilbes, and pulmonarias.

Of course, if watering is not a problem, these lists would grow to include almost any perennial that grows in our climate.

The best way to help your plants to thrive would be to improve the soil at planting time by adding compost and manure.

The plants listed above for sun would need to be watered until they are established. At that point they would get by with occasional deep watering. The shade plants would require more regular watering.

But people walking by would destroy it.

All I can say is that this has not happened at my house. People stop and look. If we are in the front yard, they often comment about and compliment the garden. I have had pots in the boulevard that have not been touched.

One year a neighbor’s child did pick some tulips “for Mom.” I told him to bring Mom to enjoy the entire garden. It has not happened since.

If you can think of another reason not to plant the boulevard, share it with me. Allow me to argue my case for fixing them up. There is one more little reason people might be avoiding this area. It would create more work! I will concede this.

But then I love gardening and none of it is work. It is a labour of love.

Connie Smith is an avid gardener who enjoys participating in incrEDIBLE trail and Communities in Bloom.