By Amanda Strackr, Conservation Garden Park
Rarely as a designer does one create a design, install it, and watch it grow. A couple of years ago, I was given the task to design a park strip at my work, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. As with all designs, I did a lot of research on plants and picked what for me, best suited the site. However, as with most designs, we couldn’t find all the exact plants I had originally wanted, but the park strip still turned out beautifully and has been successful with a few exceptions. As a plant person, I have learned that I can’t get stuck on one plant or one idea and that I must be open to the notion that not all plants will thrive where you expect them to. I go into each design process with the hope of trying out new plant species and with the expectation that they won’t all be prolific. If you know the functions you are trying to fulfill with specific plants, it should be easy to make substitutions when needed.
For this specific design, my goal was to constantly have color, be salt tolerant, low-maintenance, and water efficient. There is a lot of foot and vehicle traffic in this area, so I wanted it to stand out. This area receives a heavy application of salt during the winter and is extremely hot during the summer, like residential park strips. At full plant maturity I wanted the park strip to be filled in, with a high density of plants, so I chose plants that would spread or be wide.
For early spring color, I used Scarlet Flame Creeping Phlox, Mountain Alyssum, and Fragrant Evening Primrose. For blooms beginning in mid to late spring, I used Poncha Pass Red Buckwheat, Sallyrosa April Night Sage, Sombrero Blanco Coneflower, Davidson’s Penstemon, and Beauty of Livermere Oriental Poppy. For summer blooms I chose Marcus Meadow Sage, Fama Pincushion Flower, Pink Parade Yucca, Blue Balloon Bluebeard, and Purple Emperor Stonecrop. For year-round color and interest, I selected Blue Oat Grass. The Pink Parade Yucca, Poncha Pass Buckwheat, and Purple Emperor Stonecrop will also provide year-round interest.
My design also included Wild Thing Autumn Sage, which was colorful and amazing almost the entire growing season — but it didn’t come back this year, which makes us think it didn’t like the salt. It would be an incredible plant to use somewhere else in the landscape as the color was spectacular. Trial and error are an important learning process as a gardener.
Residential park strips waste an incredible amount of water and are a space that is often unused. If you are interested in changing that area to something beautiful, investigate the Flip Your Strip program. Go to utahwatersavers.com to see if you are eligible. You can also visit Conservation Garden Park to attend a Creating Water Wise Park Strips class where you can learn the entire process to flip your strip. Our next class is July 11th at 6:30.