Friday, July 10, 2009

Out on the Streets ...and Country Byways

Those of you who are regular readers of Veg Plotting probably have seen her series of quarterly reports entitled "Out on the Streets," in which she documents public plantings, both good and bad, in her area of the UK. She has invited anyone who wishes to, to participate and recently wrapped up her second series at the end of June. True to form, I am late . . .

I had enticed VP by my exclamations of delight over some of the street plantings I saw in Chicago during Spring Fling. But, of course, when I downloaded all my Fling photos, not one street planting was in the bunch! So we'll have to do with my hometown images. I apologize in advance for the quality of these photos. Most were shot during midday on very sunny days, and I also found it difficult, as Frances recently noted, to get broad views of an area with sufficient detail. But the most challenging part of taking these photos was avoiding serious injury on busy highways and streets:)

Note: I just noticed that these photos are sooo much better when you click on them to enlarge them, if you want to see the plantings in more detail.

On one of my regular routes into nearby Champaign-Urbana, I kept noticing this median planting. Naturally, I never had my camera with me when it was in full bloom, but can you tell what's planted here? Yup, you're right--it's a mass of Stella d'Oro daylilies with a few orange tiger lilies bravely waving above them. When I first received some passalong Stellas quite a few years ago, I was thrilled with them, and I still do appreciate their prolific blooms in June. But somewhere along the line, they became the plant of choice for commercial plantings. It's easy to see why--they're low maintenance and multiply (and multiply!) each year. But surely whoever designs these commercial landscaping projects could get a little more creative . . .

. . . or at least plant them along with other plants. They seem to be a favorite for fast-food restaurants. The line at the McDonald's drive-through was busy this day, allowing me time to capture yet another photo of Stellas . . . and nothing else growing.

On the other hand, the local Humane Society is fronted by a mass planting of native prairie plants. They were in glorious bloom last week. I must admit when this garden is not in bloom, it looks like a patch of weeds, but I think the idea of native plants seems to fit the philosophy and purpose of the Humane Society.

Back in my small town, there are several good examples of how to plant public spaces. This median planting does contain some Stellas that are no longer blooming, but as you can see, there is a lot of variety here. Perennials and annuals are combined for all-season interest.

Since the long shot didn't show up well, here's a close-up of just one area. This area, along with several other places around town, is planted and maintained by a group of volunteers who meet monthly as the Village Gardeners. Sigh, no, I don't belong, though several people have invited me to join. It's one of those things I keep putting off, thinking how can I work in another garden if I can't keep up with my own? Maybe next year . . .

At the four-way stop on the "main drag" through town there are a few more plantings by this group. This square area has been planted in annuals the last few years. Although I'm a big fan of coleus, I'm not sure I like this mass planting of it, though you'll notice a few other flowers, including lantana at the borders. I talked to one of the Village members who assisted in planting this, and she told me that the different garden areas in town are assigned to different members who choose what they will plant. Last year this was a mass of pale pink supertunias, which was beautiful.

My favorite area, though, is just across the street from the coleus. This is primarily a perennial bed, with a few annuals planted each year. Every time I look at this, I see something different--today I noticed a magnificent orange bloom coming from the canna in the center. Sorry that there are cars in every photo--who would have thought this intersection would be so busy at 2:00 in the afternoon?? Apparently, no one worries about the price of gas anymore now that it's well below $3.00 a gallon:)

The Village Gardeners also maintain a few smaller beds around town as well as some large planters throughout the business district. Village workers keep the beds watered, which is a help, but otherwise they are completely maintained by volunteers. I think we're very lucky to have such a willing group, but my friend told me their numbers are dwindling. I really should join . . .

Lately, I have been enjoying my drives into town along country roads and highways. A few miles out of town there is a long stretch of tiger lilies, or "ditch lilies" as we usually call them, that have been blooming for a few weeks. I should have stood to the side of them to take this photo from a different angle, but they're along a busy two-lane highway with no space to pull off. As bad as this picture is, it was the best of the bunch. I took it while parked across the way in a cemetery . . . and I didn't want to stay too long:) My husband commented that in most cases wherever these lilies appear along the roadside there was once a farmstead. If you'd like to know more about these lilies, check out Marnie's latest post.

At one time roadsides were all neatly mowed, either by the county or state transportation department or by the landowner. But state cutbacks in funding and the price of fuel have reduced the amount of roadside mowing. Other areas are left to grow naturally for another reason as is this area full of milkweeds.

While we gardeners know that various species of milkweeds are an important food source for butterflies, this common milkweed is the bane of farmers. My summer job as a teenager was "walking beans" for my father, which meant pulling out all the weeds in a beanfield. It's taken me awhile to appreciate the beauty of a milkweed:)

As I said, the economy is not the only reason for less mowing of roadsides; we are seeing many more places like this around the area as people realize the importance of native plants, or what some people would consider weeds, to the balance of nature. These three photos were taken not far from my house on a recent plant expedition with Beckie. I asked her if she would mind if we stopped so I could take a few photos. Further down the road, she asked me to stop . . .

. . . a roadbank full of these pink flowers intrigued us. I carefully pulled off to the side of the busy country road so we could inspect these more closely. A kind woman driving by stopped to make sure we were okay. How nice of her, I thought, but I wonder what she must have thought of two women trekking through the ditch to look at wildflowers:) Beckie and I had our suspicions . . . could it be? . . .

A little hard to tell from the fading and curled up blooms, but Beckie and I both agreed this certainly looked like phlox pilosa to us, better known as Gail's "Perfectly Pink Phlox Pilosa"! Checking a website devoted to wildflowers in Illinois, I found that phlox pilosa, otherwise known as "prairie phlox," is a native in this area. This is the first year I have ever noticed it around here, though, and it is flourishing in quite a few areas. Don't tell anyone, but today I walked down the road with my spade and dug some up. It may not survive in my garden--it was hard to get all of the root---but I know where I can always find more, provided the prairie police don't stop me:)

I think I may have gotten off the subject of "Out on the Streets" a little, but my mind does tend to wander when I begin driving through the countryside. I spy a stray galliardia along the roadside and look up to see this . . .

Isn't this a riot of color? This is just down the road from the "Roadsides for Wildlife" pictured above and is planted next to the homeowner's lane. It's not a public planting or even an "au naturelle" area--obviously, the homeowner planted these coneflowers, brown-eyed Susans, galliardia, and lilies on purpose. But I love the way they look spilling down the embankment into the ditch. This was definitely my favorite place out on the streets and country byways.

Life's a journey, not a destination.



  1. I love the Humane society's garden. It seems perfect for sure. Those village gardeners sound like a hoot and what a fun and worthy group. I think anyone, business or whatever, that takes the time to plant a plant or flower is surely improving streetscapes and the environment no matter what they plant. Just my piece of mind. There are a few plantings here but not as many as I think there should be. Love the milkweed. I've seen it in bloom too. I am debating trying to put it in my garden. Ha! Not like I need more. ttyl

  2. Rose, Such a delightful post...I loved seeing the street plantings and I agree...that is way too much coleus. The Humane Society garden is wonderful and familiar...I, too think my garden looks like a mess of weeds when out of bloom! I want milkweed in my's such a good food source for caterpillars.

    I won't tell a soul about the dig! I hope it is PPPP, wouldn't that be grand...even if it is, I will send you more this fall. Thanks for the linklove. gail

  3. It does seem like the roadsides are much more interesting now that are mowed so much less. I have been enjoying all the wild flowers, even if they are weeds!

    A friend of mine just gave me a whole box full of ditch lillies, which a plan to plant around my mail box, just like everyone else. Unoriginal, but homey none the less.

  4. The wild flowers look lovely. All the photos are lovely.

  5. Rose - you promised and promised and I waited and waited. And well, you've outdone yourself and done me proud! I like how you've summed up a number of themes coming through into 1 post - the lack of choice of plants used in public planting (at least yours have flowers), how community groups make a great deal of difference and how interesting native plants/ leaving well alone can be.

    Thanks for joining in and I'll add your piece to this quarter's summary :)

    Have a great weekend!

  6. Hi Rose, great job! And thanks for the link love too. I didn't know we could still post about this, thinking we had to wait until the next quarter, when I would miss it again. You are so brave to be late, I need to learn more from you. The humane society has done it right, but the village group is providing a wonderful service as well. The no mow is something I would like to see more of here in TN, but know that the mowers are employees who need to feed their families and would suffer from layoffs. We need to think of an alternative that would still use them, maybe plowing then planting wildflower seeds? The drought has affected all of our public plantings the last couple of years too. One more thing, stopping along the road to take photos is always a little scary for me, I am always alone and worry slightly about who might stop to assist me. Chain saw murderer? But he's got a six pack of Bud! HA :-)

  7. Tina, Our town is so much more attractive since this group started their plantings. I don't think my husband would ever let me plant milkweeds in my garden:) Thank goodness, the butterfly weed looks very different, so he doesn't realize what it is!

    Gail, I like the prairie planting; I just wouldn't want it in front of my house when it's out of bloom. Something funny, a neighbor saw me at Curves today and asked me what I was doing in the ditch yesterday:) It's hard to get away with anything, even flower pilfering, around here!

    Joyce, I've seen these orange lilies planted in many gardens lately--I really think they're pretty. There's some nostalgia there, almost like an heirloom flower:)

    Maggie May, Thanks. I don't have many in my garden, but I do like seeing them along the roads.

    VP, I did digress a little, didn't I? Glad you liked it and that I could participate. I'll be on the lookout as we head into fall so that I can be on time next time:)

  8. Frances, I've always been such a rule-follower, but I'm getting older and wiser:) Besides, are there really any rules in blogging? Our state finances are in such a mess that cutting down on mowing isn't really affecting anyone's jobs. As for stopping on the road, I was more worried about getting hit by a car than getting mugged. The Bud people have the best commercials:)

  9. Hey Rose, this is a wonderful post. A co-worker has gotten me very interested in native and wildflowers. He has even given me a few. Don't remember what most are so it will be interesting to see what they look like, that is if they bloom.

    Funny how you said if that one particular bed wasn't blooming it would look like weeds. As I was watering this afternoon I looked across my yard and thought how it looked like a bunch of weeds cause ain't nothing blooming right now.

    Thanks for taking us along on with you.

  10. I am glad communties are putting plantings in median strips and roadsides. Sure makes it prettier.

  11. This is a great post Rose. I want milkweed in my garden so bad. I am going try to get out there and get some seeds this year. Maybe that way I can get some to take here. Like you, I have tried to dig some up but the tap root is way too deep to be successful digging.

  12. Wonderful post! Not getting run over is what's holding me back from photographing some excellent planting in the middle of a 4 lane road near me. I'll have to figure out how to do it, as there are no nearby cross streets.
    Leave it to the Humane Society to get it right. Good for them to have an environmentally responsible garden that's also great to look at. Your town has done a good job. Perovskia is a great low maintenance plant that makes Stella look good. I prefer to see a mass of coleus rather than the standard Stella & Petunias planting.
    I hate to burst your bubble, but the foliage of that plant doesn't look like PPP. I think it might be a Silene, but don't quote me on it.

  13. Hi Rose.....I expect you will already know the ones that I will like....of course, the wild schemes.....I must say I am impressed, with the different styles.

    We have a lot of roundabouts here and they are usually themed planting and sometimes they include small trees....I like the idea, although for a plant lover like me it is a little dangerous. I tend to try and see what is growing instead of my driving(very bad).....

    Digging up PPP have more courage than me Rose......did you wear a stocking over your head!!lol

  14. I love the quote! Hope you are well :)

  15. Susie, the native wildflowers are interesting to me, too, but I can't identify most of them. I checked out some books from the library to learn more about them.

    Janet, Since the volunteer group has started doing this, it really adds some beauty to the area. I find myself looking at the plantings instead of watching the road:)

    Lisa, When the seedheads dry up, you should be able to get lots of seeds. They spread so easily in fields that I would think you wouldn't have any trouble getting some to grow in your garden.

    MMD, Yes, I would have had better photos if I hadn't been worried about getting run over:) You may be right about the phlox i.d., but it doesn't look like the silene on the website I consult. Right now the plants aren't looking too great in my garden, but we'll see.

    Cheryl, I knew you would enjoy the "wilder" plantings; wish you could see the last one in person--it's so beautiful! I should have worn a stocking over my head--a neighbor saw me and asked me the next day what I was doing:)

    Suburbia, I need to remember this quote; I am one who looks to tomorrow too often.

  16. Very nice Rose - you got some very nice examples of street and highway plantings. I'm so happy to see so many grassy highway slopes planted with natives these days.

    Even the Dan Ryan expressway in Chicago now has many areas like that - so much better in every way than turf grass. It's delightful seeing blooming roadsides instead of scorching, scalped 'lawn.' Seeing these types of plantings along big-city expressways is doubly delightful.

  17. Great post! Isn't it interesting to evaluate the plant life in public places? It's great that native wildflowers are flourishing along more roads. We have a very long bike trail through my town (that actually goes up to Wisconsin), and it's entirely planted with native grasses and wildflowers. The coneflowers, milkweeds, and black-eyed susans are in full glory right now!

    Of course there's those Stellas everywhere! I also get irritated seeing them ad nauseum, especially without any companions. I agree with MMD that they look better with Russian sage. All in all such a fun look at your town and the surrounding area! And kudos for braving the roadsides to take pictures!

  18. Your favorite planting is mine as well! It's much more interesting visually and botanicallly. I love coleus but I think they lose their impact in a mass planting like the one you showed.

    It seems we all want some of Gail's PPPP! I bought a pot of it this spring and it's doing its best to hang tough in the inclement heat!

  19. You have some wonderful public planting areas in your town! I love the Humane Society's prairie garden, so pretty. :) What a wonderful idea for a meme.

  20. Roadside plantings and public plantings are always of interest and you found some very nice examples. Is there anything more durable than a coneflower? I also have been enjoying the roadside flowers. I must take my camera next time.

  21. Rose this was an interesting walk along the Streets! I think of all those road medians in AZ that we saw planted with all those interesting cacti! Surely worth taking photos of next year!
    Noth I for one love the coleus fact that is what I did with my front planters..I should post and show you..what those street plantings of coleus need is a bit of a POP of green like the potatoe vine!
    That's what I did and It looks great!
    I also love and believe in the road sign about the native plants for wildlife.
    Great post thank you for posting and for your continued encouragement and prayers for me. hugs aNNa xo

  22. Hooray for the hard workers who took the time to plant and care for the lovely gardens. Lovely photographs.

  23. Linda, Even the interstate roadsides are so much prettier now. There are stands of coneflowers blooming in several areas on my way into C-U. My husband says, with disdain, that this was a pet project of our former governor's wife. Perhaps money we didn't have, but they certainly are beautiful!

    Rose, I enjoy all the native plantings along roadsides, too; it seems that there are many more than there used to be. I have some Stellas in my garden, but they're paired with other colors and plants, which I do like.

    Cindy, my PPPP, if that's what it is, isn't looking too great right now; I'm not sure I got all the root, but I didn't want to stay down in the ditch too long:)

    Racquel, I'm going to try to take more photos by fall; there are so many attractive planters downtown as well.

    Layanee, Coneflowers are my favorite! Right now is probably the best show for roadsides with so many summer bloomers showing up.

    Anna, I did try taking photos of the roadsides in AZ, but it was hard to do at 70 mph:) I was very impressed by their plantings--I'll have to try harder this winter. I do love coleus, especially with all the new varieties that have come out, but I usually include a few other plants in the containers with them. The sweet potato vine sounds like a great idea.

    NC, They do deserve our appreciation; our town is so much more attractive because of it!

  24. Rose, I love the quote you chose.

    I consider public plantings a gift, great advertising and a show of respect for the community. I've come to look at a business with a vast expanse of ugly pavement as a place that wants to take from the community and not give anything back. More and more businesses are dressing up their outside with plantings. Grasses, Stellas, coneflowers, Knockout roses, rudbeckias are really popular here. I'm very happy that business are taking a part in making our shopping and driving areas more attractive.

    Love the milkweed. I posted about it today. I'm bringing some seed home to try in my garden. The fragrance alone is enough to recommend it.

  25. Rose, you have some beautiful photos! There's something special about wild flowers. I had to laugh at the picture of you and Beckie, pulling off the road and stomping into the ditches to take pics. And that sweet lady who wanted to make sure you two were o.k.

    What a coincidence that we are posting about tiger lilies, and so is Marnie in her blog. Must be that time of year.

    I also like your favourite road-side planting. Never mind about the cars - that way you know it's a real roadside. LOL!
    Happy gardening!

  26. What wonderful collections of plants - and how hard the volunteers must work in their areas.

    Now I know something about roadsides and why ... I can't remember what i know! I'll check it out with Husband and post it maybe. Actually I think it was to do with cows not plants!

  27. Hi Rose. Nice how you have Roadsides for wildlife, that is new to me.
    And I remember now, growing up with milkweed. We kids used to crack a leaf and watch the milk ooze out (in Chicago).
    Love the post about your gardening grandchildren.

  28. LOL, it's great to see you quoting Aerosmith. Love getting a look at your town--love the Humane Society plantings, especially. That Russian sage is all over in Colorado, especially in public plantings, which they seem to have a lot of.


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