At the beginning of August, one Instagrammer showed the internet what a smart gardener can do with the narrow strip of grass by the road.
The front strip or “hellstrip” is the piece of lawn sandwiched between the road and the sidewalk in front of many homes. It’s a challenging plot to maintain and often ends up muddy or full of weeds. However, some gardeners have worked hard to beautify this area, and there are now over 2,000 Instagram videos with the “#hellstrip” hashtag.
Philadelphia-area Instagrammer Andrew Conboy (@andrew_the_arborist) shares his take on the hellstrip situation in his recent video: “The space between the sidewalk and the road is commonly called a hellstrip because it’s usually really hot and the soils are typically poor and subject to a lot of pollution.”
However, this “urban forester” has a strategy to overcome those challenges, saying: “If you choose the right native plants, they won’t mind at all.”
Conboy shows off what he calls a “micro meadow,” an incredible assortment of flowers growing in his front strip. The selection includes cup plant, black-eyed Susan, common yarrow, butterfly milkweed, oxeye sunflower, obedient plant, whorled mountain mint, hoary mountain mint, scarlet beebalm, swamp milkweed, woodland sunflower, wild petunia, and goldenrod.
As Conboy points out, these plants are drought-tolerant and don’t need to be watered once they mature, which makes them cheap to maintain. They produce beautiful flowers continuously starting in early spring and persisting until late fall. They’re hardy even in the face of salt pollution from the road, and unlike grass, they support local wildlife.
“These plants provide a continuous source of nectar, pollen, and food from spring to fall, which benefits our native bees, birds, moths, and butterflies more than mowed turf grass ever could!” said Conboy.
Some commenters were worried that the plants at the side of the road would make it difficult to exit a car, but other users offered solutions. “For folks getting in and out of vehicles, why not leave a break or two in the plantings to allow for this?” said one commenter.
While others loved what Conboy was doing, with one saying: “People that do this are my heroes.”
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