by Michelle Gervais

Looking from the heckstrip garden to the front of the house. Calamint (loved by pollinators), 'Pamina' Japanese anemone, etc.

5-24-2014: Cut hole in sod, flip over around hole, add a boatload of compost to soil below, plant banana or elephant ear. Repeat. In the background, Pam is moving plants from her white garden as the city will be removing the ash (destroying everything else around it) and replacing it with a tree not susceptible to the emerald ash borer.

6-14-2014: Finished digging all holes, flipping the sod, adding compost, planting plants and rhizomes, edging the sidewalk and then bevelling the bed edges and using the flipped sod from that to fill the space between the holes. Now we will add 4 inches of leaf mulch and it will be ready to go.

9-6-2014: Happy jungle in a Madison heckstrip. I've had more people stop and ask about this garden than anything else we've done. One guy made his girlfriend stop and back up the car so he could get a better look. Five varieties of elephant ear, 'Gran Nain' bananas, 'Red King Humbert' canna, and 'Margarita' sweet potato.

A few of the containers on our patio. 'Smallwoods Driveway' coleus, 'Gryphon' begonia, golden pineapple sage, 'Keystone Kopper' coleus, 'Mojito' elephant ear.

Turtle planter from Mexico with sedum.

Circle onion (Allium senescens var. glaucum) in rock garden.

'Margarete' Japanese anemone with annual 'Purple Knight' alternanthera

Front garden from porch, looking east. Blooming now - smooth aster, zig-zag goldenrod, black-eyed Susan, and fading purple coneflower.

Bumble bee upside down on zig-zag goldenrod

Bulblet bladder fern, celandine poppy, and dwarf fothergilla.

'Pamina' Japanese anemone.

Early this spring, Chris Neumann shared a bunch of photos of the gardening he does at work (refresh your memory HERE.) Today we get to see what he's up to at home! He says, "My wife, Pam, and I live in Madison, Wisconsin, in a house built on a standard city lot measuring about a tenth of an acre. The house and garage take up much of the lot but it's on a corner so we have a terrace on two sides, giving us a little more room to garden. Our gardening style might best be described as eclectic. On one hand we have a mini-savanna, micro-woods, nano-mesic-prairie, and pico-sand-prairie all modeled after and planted to flora of native Wisconsin plant communities. On the other hand, we have a rock garden, shade garden, and other beds and planters with annuals, perennials, and tropicals from all over the world. We've been here 18 years now and in that time we've taken out two trees and much lawn and planted six new trees and many perennials. Gone is the Colorado blue spruce which was threatening both the house and passersby and no more is the sickly plum, doomed by a former owner who built a raised bed around the tree, burying its roots and base. We put in two serviceberries, a pagoda dogwood, two redbuds, and a bur oak. The bur oak was a one-foot-tall seedling when planted and now, 16 years later, it is 35 feet tall.
     A word about what Madisonians call the 'terrace'. This is the area between the sidewalk and the street. In Chicago, we called it the 'parkway'. I know many gardeners use the term 'hellstrip'. Ours is rather wide and the soil not too bad, so I just call it the heckstrip. We've made the heckstrip out front over into perennial beds. We'd only gotten around to redoing about a third of the side strip so I figured it would be a good place to put our tropicals. This would free up our small patio, which we had originally built to hold two chairs and a bistro table, but it immediately filled up with potted plants. A couple of my photos show the process of converting the heckstrip from lawn to tropical garden. In the trichotomy of right way, wrong way, and crazy way to do something, this definitely falls in the crazy way. Unfortunately, in addition to our overwintered cannas and elephant ears, I decided to add three banana trees and three new kinds of elephant ears to this bed. Thus we had enough plants leftover that there was still no room to sit on the patio. Maybe next year." Ha! The heckstrip. So funny!! Chris, your garden is awesome--beautiful, fun, and a laboratory for experimenting. It's all-around great!!

Want us to feature YOUR garden, or a garden you've recently visited, in the Garden Photo of the Day? CLICK HERE!
Want to see every post ever published? CLICK HERE!
Want to search the GPOD by STATE? CLICK HERE!
And last but not least,
Check out the GPOD Pinterest page, where you can browse all the post in! CLICK HERE!

To read the complete article, join now!

With FGplus, you'll get exclusive:

  • Articles – Exclusive articles for more advanced gardeners.
  • Videos – Join our editors on their behind-the-scenes journeys.
  • Digital Library – Gain access to our digital library of special issues.
  • Need help? Our Ask-the-Expert contributors will answer your questions.