Rethinking the Front Sidewalk Garden

Our front sidewalk garden has always been a tricky thing. I plant the plants I like there but I’ve rarely given consideration to other people who walk down the sidewalk which is becoming problematic. It’s a problem because of two things: many of the plants I plant attract pollinators (which doesn’t bother me a bit but does bother those who are afraid of bees and wasps) and several of the plants are becoming to big for their britches so to speak. My wife doesn’t like to walk down the sidewalk and chooses to walk into the grass. When people decide that walking through the grass is easier (or safer) than the sidewalk I think there’s a problem!

The solution may sound simple – plant the right plants in the right space but it is really much more complicated when you sit down to choose the plants. For this area I’ll adopt new planting strategy – plant for foliage. It’s not really a new strategy as I’ve done it in other gardens but it will be new for this garden.

Let’s take a look a what is in the garden:

Butterfly Bush – It’s staying both my wife and I like it where it is and since I cut it back severely each spring it does get out of hand.
Nandina (2) – I’m not a fan of nandinas and would love to remove them both but my wife likes the one in the center so it wills stay (for now…)
Bird’s Nest Spruce – I’m a big fan of this plant but it’s planted too closet to the butterfly bush, it needs a new home.
Yew – the Densiformis yew I discovered on the discount rack three years ago are doing great. Foundation plantings for $10 – you can’t beat that!
Euonymous fortunei – This variegated evergreen is getting leggy and I wouldn’t mind removing them but I’m deferring to the wife again ;).
Catmint – This one attracts many of the pollinators especially the big bumble bees. I’m keeping one in the garden for sure but may move the second one.
Irises – These aren’t a problem but need moved to allow them room to grow.
Echinacea – When in bloom the coneflowers attract plenty of butterflies and the stingy pollinators too.
Spirea – It was here when we moved in and grew back from its roots. It’s now too big for its spot and will need moved.
Gaillardia – An offspring of an ‘Oranges and Lemons’ that reverted back to one of it’s parents.
Phlox – This looks great every spring! It does need a hair cut though – did I hear anyone say cuttings?
Heath – It was looking sad this spring but seems to have rebounded.
Mums – Some giant red mums are in need of a new home. The flowers aren’t giant, just the plant. It’s spilling over onto the sidewalk in a large bush – and I never pinched it back. Of course it didn’t pinch me first! 😉
‘Silver Mound’ artemisia – I like this plant but it looks in really sad shape right now. A mid-summer pruning was probably needed to keep it bushy. ‘Silver Mound’ is also spilling over the sidewalk. It’s a look I like but maybe not here.
Salvia ‘East Friesland’ – EF looks awesome every spring and after a hard pruning it comes back great. I really don’t think I can move these – I just don’t want to! They attract pollinators in droves though.
Daylilies – Most likely these are ‘Stella’s and they look nice but are another pollinator attractor!

I’ve also planted a few annuals in the mix but they really don’t factor in on the decision much. I could go after more sun tolerate coleus plants next year for their foliage color.
What to move? Echinacea, 1 catmint, ‘Silver Mound’, Gaillardia, Irises, Spirea, Bird’s Nest Spruce, and a nandina.

What to replace the plantings with? That’s the question isn’t it? With so many options out there to choose from it becomes very difficult. I once saw a beautiful chamaecyparis that would have been great along the sidewalk but it’s hard to find and can be expensive. Another idea would be to use a combination of shorter ornamental grasses with some sun tolerant heuchera.  I’m looking for interesting foliage plants that don’t get extremely tall.

What would you suggest?

2 thoughts on “Rethinking the Front Sidewalk Garden”

  1. Dave, I have had this same problem because my yard is so small I have to be careful not to close off the pathways.

    My Lemon Queen is scary, loaded with bees for over a month. I am afraid to go past it but there is nowhere else to put it.

    I use coleus around my patio. Some other suggestions are Dianthus, Daylilies, low growing Shastas, Rozanne Geranium, etc.


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