A City Traffic Island Tale

by Risa Edelstein on April 12, 2011

in Traffic Island Planting,Uncategorized

What is the secret to a beautiful city traffic island?  After 4 years, mine is still awful.  In 2007, I volunteered to manage an island in my town that is right in the heart of a major traffic exchange.   In the center of an asphalt jungle.   I thought it would be a great experience, that I would learn a lot and that eventually I could refer to it as an example to promote my business.  I was sadly mistaken.

The first year I cleaned out the island.  The red mulch and the weeds.  Weeds like this vine that continue to plague my planting from year to year.  And the yuccas had to go.  I was not a big fan and they were definitely not a signature plant of mine.

I put in all kinds of meadow plants and bulbs.  Leftovers from jobs.  Grasses.  Daylilies.  Peony.  Yarrow. Drought tolerant plants.  Workhorse plants that would fill in.  I was creating a low maintenance, beautiful garden right in the heart of all of this traffic.  People waved to me as I was planting.  They smiled.  I was hopeful.  And confident so I had the city order my sign.

The first year, Spring 2008,  the garden was getting established.  Plants were small, but they were alive and the garden even seemed color coordinated. I weeded and people thanked me for this service as they drove by.

Later that summer, it was still looking good.


Until the town decided that the grasses were impeding sight lines and cut them.  There goes the beautiful panicum virgatum blowing in the wind.

In 2009 the yuccas returned. Where the hell did they come from??????

The rest of the island looked presentable but I had lost a lot of plants and put new ones in – starting at square one again. I weeded but not that much and was confident that I was on my way to a low maintenance island.

In 2010 the yuccas were really back.  And we had a severe drought.  The entire month of August.  So bad that even the yarrow died.  Back to square one.

Late last fall, I replanted.  Forget drought tolerant plants.  I put in aggressive natives.  Mountain mint and Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’. I hope they take over like they did in my garden.  Next step – Gooseneck Loosestrife!  Anemone canadensis. Or bee boxes and fun art and forget plants altogether.

I had every intention of planting daffodils so the island would look great this spring but the ground was frozen by the time I had any energy. I hope bulbs can last a season in a basement.

I have not been over to visit the island yet.  I hope everything survived and that the island will begin to live up to the billboard “Meadow Design”.  One can only hope.

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{ 1 comment }

Meg Muckenhoupt April 14, 2011 at 6:45 am

I’m surprised that the town was complaining about sight lines, given that they planted 3′ tall rugosa roses a block away.

Agastache has been doing well in Lori Kenschaft’s garden at First Parish. Sounds like a good idea to me. But given the location –and complete lack of water!– maybe you should just throw in a bunch of sedums? Is there any way to put in a swale, or *something* for retaining moisture?

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