From 1988 to 1995 a corner lot in a semi-arid climate with two median strips inspired the term "hellstrip" for the narrow and challenging gardens between the sidewalk and the street. Inspired by the need for an aesthetic overhaul, the owner tore out all the lawns on the property, approximately one-quarter acre, and replaced the grass with perennials, bulbs, ornamental grasses, succulents, spruce and cactus that would thrive without watering once the plants were established. The patchwork design was inspired by other gardens in wetter climates, particularly Ireland where the owner had worked, achieving the effect without plentiful moisture. Plants that did not thrive were pulled out. The hellstrips were seven feet wide and approximately 70 feet long, nearly 500 square feet in total. There was a town ordinance limiting the height of anything on the strips - organic or otherwise. Several applications of weed killer were followed by digging out debris and grubbing out juniper and tree stumps.
Plant selection for the hellstrips included seed-grown plants and bulbs that were drought-tolerant, non-invasive and not too tall. Although originally from many different parts of the world, these plants shared similar growth habits: mounding rather than spreading. Self-sowing poppies and larkspur thrived in the pea gravel mulch that was used to prevent erosion and to shade the roots from the intense summer heat that reflected off the surrounding concrete sidewalks and street. Darker and hotter hues, including scarlet penstemon, bright yellow linum, orange California poppies and burgundy and yellow gaillardias glowed in the afternoon sun at the west end while pastel-toned dianthus, salvias and mauve penstemon were planted at the east end. Plants with evergreen foliage including iceplant extended the growing season. Some other favorite plants for the median strips included those with silver leaves such as dusty miller, catmint and herbs as well as many varieties of cactus and flat-leafed succulents that contributed different textures.
Persons associated with the garden include Lauren Springer Ogden (garden designer, 1988-1995).
The folder includes worksheets and photocopies of articles.
Garden has been featured in an article in Horticulture (December 1996) by Lauren Springer