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Darrell Blackwelder: The challenge of the ‘hell strip’

Darrell Blackwelder by Mark Brincefield/For the Salisbury Post 

Everyone has a place in their landscape where they can’t get anything to grow or do well. Extension Master Gardeners were faced with the challenge of this obstacle at the Cooperative Extension office on Old Concord Road. It’s a green area between the sidewalk and the driveway where even liriope does poorly. Master Gardeners have designated this area as the “Hell Strip.” The term “Hell Strip” was coined by Lauren Springer Ogden in her book The Undaunted Garden to describing tough-to-plant areas, such as between sidewalks and streets.

This experiment was a formidable task for sure, but Lana Miller and seven fellow Master Gardener Volunteers implementing a plan utilizing 24 different groundcovers accepting the challenge. These include: Thyme, Betony, Lady Bells, Dianthus, Black Brass Buttons, Black Mondo Grass, Speedwell, Blue Star Creeper, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Hens & Chicks, Creeping phlox and Creeping Raspberry.

The gardeners strategically integrated stone pathways to divide the test cultivars and provide easy access to the sidewalk. The test was initiated in the fall of 2016. All the plant materials have thrived, adapting to our hot summer heat as well as unseasonably cold weather experienced this winter. Lana and the Master Gardeners have brought a bit of “heaven” to the Extension Office replacing the unsightly “Hell Strip” that has plagued the office for years.

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