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Friday, May 8, 2015

Garden project #1: My Mailbox Garden

I have completed one (very small) garden project this spring:  My home mailbox garden.

BEFORE planting.
Garden Site Challenges:

1. There is a big ugly electrical pole right behind the garden, which is right in front of my house.

2. In winter, snow (and the accompanying road salt) gets piled here in a large mound.

3.  In the winter, cars occasionally slide down the hill in the road and run over the garden.  (That was how my apple tree got run over last year - it used to grow in this garden space.)

4. We are in zone 5. It's COLD in winter! 

BEFORE planting.

Garden Site Advantages: 

1. It is one of the few places in my yard that is in full sun!

2. It is small and easy to maintain.

3. I had added compost to the area last fall, so the soil is excellent. 

AFTER planting - late April.
Goals For The Garden:

1. Disguise the electrical pole.
2. Choose plants that could survive getting run over by a car in the winter.

3. Provide color throughout the entire growing season (late March - early October) and provide a bit of winter interest.

4. Choose plants that are tough and at least somewhat resistant to road salt.

Plant List for Problem Solving:

I primarily chose tough, sun-loving perennials for this garden.  That was because they could survive the full sun conditions of the site, outlive some of the road salt mixed in with the winter snow, and survive being run over by a car in the winter.  While a bush or tree could be killed by getting hit by a car, a perennial dies back in the late fall, and the roots are under ground.  Once the ground freezes, the hardened soil should protect the perennials from the worst of the damage caused by the weight of a vehicle.

Some of these tough plants are as follows:

1. Miscanthus "Big Kahuna" grass -  1 plant, far back corner, in front of the electric pole - This grass  grows to be around 10 feet tall - That's tall enough to disguise the electrical pole somewhat.  If it gets run over by a car in the winter, it would survive (unlike the liberty apple.) It is also resistant to road salt. In addition, it adds "winter interest" when it dries out to a honey-brown color and retains its fountain shape despite the snow.

AFTER planting - late April.
 2. Leucanthemum superbum 'Becky' (Shasta Daisy "Becky") - 2 plants just in front of the miscanthus - My wedding flower was the daisy.  So I chose this plant as a romantic reminder of that time. It also blooms in June and July, adding a good amount of color to the full sun garden.  It is a tough plant and will hold up to the tough conditions of the site in winter.

3. Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldstrum' (Black Eyed Susan)- 1 plant between, and slightly in front of the daisies.  This tall, bright yellow plant is tough and adds color late into September.  Pollinators adore it, and it provides them with a food source late in the year.

4. Gaillardia aristata 'Arizona Sun' (Blanket Flower) - 3 plants towards the mid-front of the garden-  Like the daisy, this is another tough, full sun, mid-summer bloomer. It will add a lot of color to the space.
AFTER planting - late April.

Grown in - August 2015
5. Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower) - 3 plants towards the middle of the garden - This plant blooms in the summer, adds a burst of color and some height.  It can also be used to make tea.  There is some evidence that the roots and blooms can enhance immune function. So it is both beautiful and useful. It blooms nearly all summer and into the fall.  Also, bees love it.

6. Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'(Catmint)  -  4 plants towards the outer edges of the garden - This is another bee-friendly, tough plant.  It is shorter than the other plants, so I planted it towards the edge of the garden. It blooms from May-June, extending the season of color.

7. Artemesia arborascens 'Powis Castle' (Wormwood) - 1 plant towards the front of the garden, to the left of the mailbox-  This plant is tough and will grow in full sun and withstand road salt like the others.  It does not bloom, but it's foliage adds a silvery-green color and finer texture to the area.  This contrasts nicely with the wider leaves of the plants in the daisy family.

8. Salivia officinalis (Sage) - 1 plant towards the edge of the garden, just a bit behind the mail box pole - This culinary herb is delicious on chicken, turkey, or in sausage.  It grows into about a 1 foot "bush" and makes lovely purple flowers in June.  The bees love this one too!

9. Portulaca oleracea (Purslane, pigweed) -  1 plant towards the road-facing edge of the garden, and 3 towards the driveway-facing edge of the garden - This is an annual ground cover that can withstand heat and sand (like what is found at the garden edge nearest the asphalt).  The variety that I found at the garden center makes bright red flowers.  It is also edible and can be sprinkled on salads.

10. Dianthus (Pinks) -  1 plant towards the road-facing edge of the garden and 2 towards the driveway-facing edge of the garden- This is a perennial ground cover that is semi-evergreen, even in Michigan.  The flowers have a wonderful smell of clove and are edible as well.

11. Spring bulbs: crocus, hyacinths and daffodils/narcissus - scattered throughout the garden -  These little lovelies come up before every other plant.  The crocus may appear as early as late March, the hyacinths appear in mid April and the daffodils appear in late April and last into May.  They provide the color that I CRAVE after a looooooong Michigan winter.

12. Thunburgia alata (Black Eyed Susan Vine) - I want to grow this bright-orange annual up the mail box.  It is not shown in the photo above, because it has not arrived in the garden center's yet.  I am hoping that it will add some constant, bright color to the space and help to beautify the mailbox post a bit.

Once the plants get established, I will take more photos of the garden and update this post.  I believe that it will look very nice around July when at least a couple of the plants will be in bloom.  So stay tuned! :)


  1. Your flower bed is going to be so pretty when all your flowers are bloom, it will draw everyone eyes away from your electric pole where they won't even notice. Thanks for the information on the plants.

    1. I hope so! I love using electricity, but hate how the pole looks. 😀. I am glad that the plant information was useful!