Flowering Perennials for Droughty Bed - Knowledgebase Question

Buffalo, NY
Avatar for pachetti
Question by pachetti
February 3, 1998
Here's my situation: I've got a long/narrow driveway with about 1 foot wide run of dry soil in full sun. There are old, old, old roses here and there (not appropriate as they cannot be properly supported). I want to put down some plant (preferable flowering that will also keep some character in all seasons) that won't get too high and fall over so not to get stomped by cars.

Answer from NGA
February 3, 1998
This sounds like a job for Potentilla, which is related to roses, but is more sutied to the space you describe. It flowers abundantly in spring and early summer, and continues with sparser bloom into fall. Low-growing varieties are available, and flower colors range from white to yellow and orange. There won't be much winter interest, but they will likely be covered by snow.

Before you order/purchase plants, you'll need to prep the soil. It sounds like it might be somewhat compacted, so turn the soil with a fork or tiller and work in just a bit of compost. Potentilla thrives in poor soil, but it'll need some nutrientes to get well established. Water plants well at planting time (ideally on an overcast day or towards evening rather than in full sun) and add 1/8 c of bone meal to the backfill before refilling planting holes. Mulch around plants with bark mulch or wood chips. You'll need to water them about once per week throughout the summer and fall (unless you have adequate rainfall), and they may need a cover through the first winter. After that, they should be doing well enough to forge ahead on their own.

Here are a couple of sources: Miller Nurseries, 5060 West Lake Rd., Canandaigua, NY 14424; ph# 800/836-9630
Carroll Gardens, 444 East Main St., Westminster MD, 21157; ph# 800/638-6334. Good Luck!

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