Landscape Solutions: The 'Deadzone'

Last Saturday we talked to two customers about a problem area and had a 'light bulb' moment--we need a blog series to address some common landscape problems many people face in their yards. Enter Landscape Solutions. This series will tackle some tricky situations you might be facing in your yard. First up, the 'dead zone'.

As we say here, at The Growing Place, it’s all about the right plant in the right place. The customers came in and described the area off their front porch. It's about 5 feet wide by 11 feet long, bordered by the garage on the west side and a sidewalk on the east. Joannie Rocchi, Retail Perennial Manager replied, “We are dealing with the ‘deadzone’.” There is nothing natural about the ‘deadzone’. It is most likely rocky, alkaline, clay, sometimes sandy soil between the footings and foundations of our homes and the sidewalks and driveways. These very poor man-made conditions and restricted space is often made worse by the overhang of the soffit, facia, and gutters allowing for limited natural moisture.

“Think of the 'dead zone' as the Mediterranean or the side of a mountain,” explains Mary Saba, Landscape Designer. Mediterranean climates have two seasons--a rainy period coinciding with low temperatures in winter and hot and very dry in summer. “Drought tolerant plants like Liriope and Daylilies can cope with extreme conditions. Their vigorous root systems allow them to store extra food for the periods of both extreme temperature and soil moisture. Before placing plants in this 'dead zone' determine where the natural drip line is. Make sure that the plants are placed where their roots will get natural moisture.”

Shrubs and Evergreens

When selecting evergreens and shrubs for this area, think small and drought tolerant. Junipers are evergreens that perform well. It is always good to think about the winter interest that they can provide.

Groundcovers to the Rescue

Here is the PERFECT spot for all those voracious groundcovers that will spread like Ajuga, Elfin and Red Creeping Thyme, Vinca and Pachysandra. Some of these groundcovers may require a shearing back from the driveway and sidewalks because they just keep growing if you don’t cut them off! Other groundcovers like Canadian Ginger, Arabis, and Epimedium are slower growing. Liriope spicata and Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’ both grow mounds of tough, leathery, grass-like foliage which is a great background for the purple flower spikes in summer followed by glossy-black berries that last into the winter for interest.

Herbal Perfection

If it is sunny, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Lavender, and Santolina will thrive in this type of area. Though Rosemary, Lavender, and Santolina are not winter hardy they like these conditions and will provide a great color variety, fragrance and texture all season long. The shapely mounds of Dianthus would make a beautiful border surrounding an herbal garden planting. Add a container or two of scented geraniums for height and visual interest outside in the summer, but bring them inside to a sunny spot to enjoy the scent indoors all winter long.

Don’t Forget Bulbs

Imagine next spring as the snow begins to melt from the 'zone'. It's no longer dead because you've added the right plants for this tough place. You see little green heads begin to pop out of the brown remains of last summer. In no time, snowdrops and scilla will color your early spring garden with the bulbs you planted mid-October. Even in the fall this garden can bloom with fall blooming bulbs like Colchicum 'Waterlily'. Stop in and let us show you how to use bulbs, groundcovers and drought tolerant plants together to keep your zone thriving!

The Focal Point

You will want to lead your visitors to your front door in a pleasing manner. First, don't hide it. Second, compliment it. If all else fails, think outside planting in the ground. Make this a place where people will stop to look and admire your arrangement of containers, each planted with a different hosta set atop a stream of river rock. The containers can be of the same size or a grouping of different sizes and colors. A unique focal point could even be a miniature garden of gnomes, fairies and all plants small. Go ahead and have a little fun with this tricky space.

Other Good Plant Options

Dianthus, also called Pinks, is extremely drought tolerant with beautiful flowers on mounded foliage. Both ‘Early Bird Chili’ and ‘Early Bird Frizzy’ are long blooming from April through October on beautiful blue-green foliage. The very fragrant ‘Fizzy’ is a little smaller growing only 3-6 inches tall with pretty little pink flowers, while ‘Chili’ grows 6-12 inches tall with vibrant dark coral blooms and a spicy clove scent.

A wonderful textural combination with drought-tolerant plants is Lamb’s Ears (Latin name: Stachys byzantine 'Big Ears'. The soft, wooly, silver foliage brings a soft touch to a tough growing site.

Aquilegia, the airy and graceful Columbine can be planted in sun or shade. This early summer bloomer with large, spurred flowers, some double; come in a wide range of colors and bi-colors. Its foliage resembles small fans and most types self-seed slowly.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.