Monday, June 15, 2009

First Post: A Garden Repost from June 1st

You have some time on your hands? Of course not but perhaps you might have a spare moment or two for a neighborhood project. You & your friends/neighbors/ boyfriends could plant the parkway. All over Chicago people are planting mini-gardens there. Technically the space between the sidewalk and the street belongs to the city but nowhere have I heard, do officials forbid the greening (and purpling and redding, etc.) of this semi-public, semi-private land.

You do need to follow some rules:
1.) Leave (better yet, pave, with old bricks or flagstones) at least one & a half feet curbside for
alighting from cars. Otherwise disgruntled drivers will trample your new babies.
2.) No big showy flowers - they'll get picked. Sorry, peonies, large roses et. al.
3.) No eye level thorn anythings - hawthorn bushes for example. One word of warning which
is lawsuit.
4.) Don't fall for the Measles Syndrome: a plant here; another a foot away; a third 2 feet away.
5.) And why do you want to fill the space? A) Looks better; B) Helps keep dogs out.
6.) If you can, put a short fence or wall in front; or even 2 layers of bricks. It'll help keep dogs off.
They don't like to step up. They also don't like short chartreuse or red barberries (low thorns)
cottoneaster (too tangled for Fido's taste). I'd advise some cayenne pepper or cinnamon
powder on corners. This may train dogs from urinating there without permanently damaging
the critters. (Don't use any spices with salt in them - it'll damage plants.)
7.) Left over or extra garden plants are fine in parkways. Check the sun but parkways are often
dappled light suitable for almost anything. Plant your extra hostas (or pieces), some of that
phlox, your daylily's offspring, some seeded-in-the-wrong-place columbines, even some extra
annuals (but you're looking for low maintenance. Perennial is better.) Some self-seeding
herbs like purple perilla are great as is the big-leaved veggie rhubarb.
8.) Be careful about trees. The city has official rules about which types are allowed. No thorned
trees, or the highly messy or fruit trees. If there is already an existing tree don't plant closer
than a foot out from the trunk. Definitely don't bury the base in a foot of dirt.
9.) Try for contrasts in foliage: green/white/purple/red etc. & big/little/pointed/round/curled etc.
10.) If you have, in your block, absentee landlords or elderly folk ask them if you can do their
parkways. The answer from a Lincolnshire owner whose property is one door away from me:
"Are you kidding? I don't have to come in once a week to mow? I don't have to clean up
after dogs? Yes, plant, plant already!"

A personal story - a friend of mine, Richard Sabel, lives in Hyde Park. His parents also lived there - his father an exiled Filipino Anglican bishop (too liberal for Marcos) and his mom, head of the pharmacy section of the U of C hospitals. Mrs. Esclamado, Rich's mom, took it upon herself to plant the entire parkway block in front of their townhouse complex. Shrubs, flowers (Joe Pye, coneflowers,hostas, bishop's weed - of course - , lamb's ears ad infin.) When a member of the townhouse board became annoyed (?) the city rattled in to investigate but instead of reprimanding her they gave her an un-asked-for grant which paid her original out-of-pocket expenses.

Happy mulching and I command (& commend) you to spread beauty thru the 'hood (and beat my record of 40 species in my parkway)!