In June of 2000 I visited Germany on a singing tour with the Midland Music Society. You may be asking yourself, what does that have to do with plants? Well my answer would be that just because I was there to sing, doesn’t mean I wasn’t looking at plants. Many people have called me a plant geek. I agree. I can not go anywhere with out looking at plants. While I was in Germany I noticed 2 major differences between the German landscape and ours in the USA. First I noticed how clean everything is there. We are getting better here, some states better than others, but we still can not match their devotion to cleanliness. The second thing I noticed was that they grow plants everywhere. It seems that every household loves to garden. I saw a 6′ rose growing in a space of 1 square foot. This rose was surrounded by cement and a brick building. It was gorgeous and blooming like mad. The Europeans just seem to have a way with plants. Another thing I noticed in Germany was their roundabouts. We call them Cul-de-sacs. In the center of each roundabout there is a circular patch of ground that can be glorious or ugly, depending on what is growing there. I thought I would give you a little insight on what to use in these situations.
First of all we have to think about the environment. Unfortunately one of the biggest concerns in our part of the country is salt. We use road salt which splashes up on the plants or is pushed up by the snow plow. We have to use salt tolerant plants. The next thing to consider is soil compaction. If we are to have a successfull garden in one of these harsh environments we need to get rid of the compaction. The best way to do this is to rototill in some good compost or manure of some sort. Next we need to consider the plants. The best designs have 4 seasons of interest. I am going to outline a design that fills these needs. Early Spring: the use of bulbs will give an enormous amount of color in early spring. From Snowdrops which come out before the snow leaves to Darwin hybrid tulips which bloom in late spring we can get masses of color. I would suggest using numerous types of bulbs in swaths of color for the best effect. Next we need plants that will cover up the dying bulb foliage and give us late spring and summer color. Perennials work well because they can tolerate soil salt. Late spring and summer perennials include, Allium, Astilbe, Catmint, Delosperma, Deutzia (shrub), Euphorbia, Fragaria, Gaillardia, Gaura, Geranium, Lavender, Russian Sage, Veronica, and Hemerocallis. Late summer and fall it is useful to use Ornamental grasses (which will also give you some winter color), Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Aster, Sedums, Ligularia, Turtle head, and Chrysanthemum. The effect will be the best if they are planted in masses and then duplicated throughout the design. For more information see
. There will be some pictures of some roundabouts in Sweden that will give you an idea of the swaths of color in repeating patterns that I have spoken of.
If you need an evergreen tree in your design for winter color, Colorado Blue Spruce is a good choice because it is tolerant to salt spray. Shrubs that are tolerant to salt include, potentilla, spirea, shrub roses, and anything else that grows naturally along the ocean. Good luck and keep gardening.
The weather right now is hot and dry. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your plants for water needs. Especially take note of plants that have been installed this year.