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Driveway Re-invention – Part 2

On the left in early April the driveway is nearly ready for landscape material. On the right just after planting in mid May.

If you’ve been following along regarding the first phase of our big driveway reinvention project, I’m thrilled to share that we are nearly complete. The last of the really difficult trees to be removed has finally been completed (another 70-foot tall blue spruce that was nearly dead and a second one the died a few years ago but was being held up by Bittersweet vines!), so now – nearly a year later, I am onto the landscaping.

Laying in the gravel and granite rock ended just before the ground froze in late Novemeber, and with the winter snow all work ceased until late March 2021. All work, that is except planning – design and plant materials, at least in this household, can stall a project for years as we can often never decide what to get. This was a project that would require a lot of plant material, and much of it would need to meet certain criteria such as providing private once again, be easy to care for as we don’t have irrigation, and be a little bit horticulturally interesting.

My plan was simple. groups of interesting landscape perennials among larger groups of evergreen shrubs for some winter structure (here, Ilex glabra) and then rows and grids of Holly, tall grasses (“Karl Foerster”) but in great numbers so that we wouldn’t look like a gas station. The main matrix is admittedly boring for true plant people (catnip, alceimillia, Saliva nemorosa) but really, this is what you would get after hiring a posh, Boston area landscape architect, so I was OK with it. Further up the driveway spreading hayscented fern and taller trees.

This driveway is long and wide, so the plan you see here if mainly for the entrance. While trees were planted all the way down, under these trees will be planted spreading native hay-scented fern that can run wild here between the gravel driveway and the dirt road/gully. Nearly 100′ and 30′ wide, the left hand side space was too long we couldn’t afford to landscape the entire space with flowering matrix planting. Over time I don’t think that we’ll have a problem filling it all in.

Getting all the plants at one time made sense as these projects can tend to fall apart after a few years. An initial investment will pay off, and especially when it comes to landscaping with multiples, the costs might be cheaper if you can buy wholesale or in bulk. Plus, the plants in a single grouping will all be of the same age.
After the cobblestones went in, the soil needed to be enriched and leveled off before plant material could be planted. Just in, this picture of perennials and evergreen shrubs along with three, tall Sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) and three Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) along with three few Amelanchier laevis all selected for their tolerance to recent outbreaks of Asian Longhorn Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer around here.

In the end we opted for a more traditional design utilizing plants that are perhaps commonly used for landscape materials in the nicer part of suburban Boston but that also would look as if we hired a fancy landscape architect. This approach meant lots of perennials – as quantity would be one part of the strategy. This meant 20 of these and 30 of that, along with a few specimen trees that were perfectly grown (in multiples) as well as an open matrix system.

Not terribly exciting or those of us with more connoisseur tastes perhaps, but I left pockets for more interesting plants to go in here and there so it would look like real plant people lived here. In then end, the look is exactly what I was hoping to achieve. Some four-season interest with the Ilex glabra (Inkberry) selections (6 of two different varieties), a few dozen nepeta selections interplanted with a dozen each of three selections of Salvia nemorosa and a couple dozen Hakenochloa or Japanese Mountain Grass.

One of the goals of mine was to include some of the newer landscape perennials not exactly on every landscape architects plant lists. One of these is Thalictrum aquilegifolium ‘Nimbus pink’ (from the Nimbis series). The Nimbus series of Thalictrum produces very still and upright stems (unlike the species that will flop in rain). These tall stems are topped off with fluffy plumes of either white or pink. I’m very excited to see how well these do over the years, but for now – they look terriric, even with a drought. Nepeta and Japanese Forest Grass fill the gaps elsewhere.
We used woodblock as this area was loaded with invasive runners and other weeds. It will make for easy care once mulched, although we left areas where we could plants spreading plants and where we could fit in bulbs.
Proper spacing for the tall trees was important. Here 35′ between the tall growing sweet gums, although these are a vertical growing variety that will grow no wider than 20 feet.
In this most recent pic taken on May 29, 2021 things are beginning to fill in.
Before and after pictures show what a few days (months?) of sweat equity can achieve.

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