Driveway Border in the Winter

The 60’x8′ patch of earth that lies between our driveway and the neighbor’s yard has slowly evolved over the 11 years we’ve owned our home. It was originally four young trees (three sweetgums and a crabapple), equidistant vertical islands in a sea of bluegrass. In the fall of 2010, I dug out the last 250 or so square feet of turf and planted a variety of shrubs and bulbs. My hope was to have a brilliant spring show and then work on planting perennials and annuals over the summer. The results during the growing season exceeded my expectations, but I’ll admit that I hadn’t given much thought to how the border would look in winter.

I’m not a big planner when it comes to the garden, but rather a firm believer that the spade is both the pencil and eraser in the garden. When plant shopping, I tend to buy plants I like, then find a place for them when I get home. Sometimes this creates chaos, other times beautiful serendipity. Sometimes the perfect combination of both. The driveway border still has a few years to grow in, but I’m pleased so far with the way it looks stripped to bark, berries and bones.

I tore most of the spent annuals out after our first heavy frosts, but saw the potential of the Angelonia seed pods to remain structural during the winter. This Serena Blue variety is grown from seed, so perhaps I’ll get seedlings in spring as well.

One highlight is the young Aronia ‘Brilliantisima’ on the eastern end of the border. I’ve read conflicting accounts on the desirability of the bright red berries to the avian palette (perhaps the root of the common name Chokeberry). So far it seems that the birds are leaving them alone.

The ‘Mohican’ Viburnum (one of two that survived last winter) iights up the center of the border with its near-white bark. I joke with my son that this is the “Yoda Plant” because of the resemblance of the paired leaf buds to the ears of a certain Jedi master. (It’s truly a vain attempt to get the kid interested in the garden.)

A few clumps of purple coneflower (Echinacea) seedheads remain in the border. The seeds are slowly plucked by finches, leaving the central cone to stand in solitude.

While most of the border is painted in the winter hues of grey and brown, a small planting of snapdragons (Antirhinnum) remain green. The past few days of warm weather has a couple of the plants forming new flower buds. Annual flowers for the New Year will certainly be a first for me in my Zone 5 garden.

Winter landscapes in the suburbs can look dull, flat and lifeless. Somewhat accidentally and with equal parts chaos and serendipity thrown in, our driveway border is proving quite the opposite. Now, if we could get some snow to cover the bare soil, I’d be one happy gardener.

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