Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sometimes, especially on urban permaculture projects where no one person has very much land and that land is pressed right up against a neighbor, it’s interesting to think about doing a collaborative project.  I’ve certainly done them at my place and now Donna is doing a collaborative project at her place.

The way the properties are set up in my neighborhood (and many others), two driveways abut each other, sometimes with a narrow planting area between them.  Historically, this planting area was used to grow a privacy hedge, usually out of oleanders.  However, oleanders can become hard to maintain after a time:  they can grow to be 20 feet tall and 8 feet wide or more and must be continually trimmed on both the top and sides to stop them from making the driveways impassable.  In addition, most of the oleanders in my neighborhood are 50-80 years old and have started to die off. 

Donna and her neighbors to the north, Suzie and Morris, have driveways that are separated by a 4 foot planting strip that was planted in oleanders.  Earlier this year, Donna decided to tear the oleanders out because they were getting old and ragged and also because she thought she might like to plant fruit trees there, instead.  She contacted me to see if I could design something that would be suitable and practical for both neighbors.

Location:  These two properties are located side-by-side in the Fairview Place Historic District in downtown Phoenix, Arizona (33° N, 112° W).

Project Parameters:

DS slide 1

Originally, there was a hedge of oleanders separating Donna and Susie’s driveways. Over time, the oleanders became diseased and needed to be removed. Donna and Susie wanted to replant this 4 ft x 80 ft (1.2 m x 24 m) strip with something that would: 

  • Provide shade for their cars/driveways
  • Provide shade for the south side of Susie’s house (sun side) and protection from the late afternoon setting summer sun (sets low in the NW) on Donna’s house.
  • Reduce heat gain from reflected heat from the driveways (Donna’s is concrete, Susie’s is compacted earth)
  • Beautify this strip and complement existing landscapes. Colorful flowers throughout the year were requested.
  • Be low maintenance
  • Be thornless. Plants cannot have thorns or sharp tips that would scratch cars (desert plants DELIGHT in having thorns!)
  • Be low water use. Donna is the one paying to irrigate this planting, but she has a concrete driveway. To get under the driveway would be a pain in the butt. So we decided on super low water use plants that could survive on rainfall after the first couple of years of being planted.
  • Shade passers-by on the sidewalk. A lot of people walk dogs or bike in this neighborhood and it desperately needs more street trees.
  • If possible, address flooding issues at this end of the neighborhood. During a typical summer monsoon (1” rain), the inadequate storm drain down the street becomes overwhelmed or covered with debris, causing the road to flood and floodwaters to overflow the curbing and flood people’s yards. This is mostly caused by everyone venting their rainwater to the street instead of to the landscape.

DS slide 2

The Design: Part 2 (coming soon).