It is especially tempting to plant your government strip, or what I call the strip of grass between the road and the public sidewalk in front of your house, when you have a very small plot of land like myself. When I bought the house the government strip was planted in the norm: turf. Right in the middle was also a partially dead silver maple tree. Knowing that silver maple is a weak wooded tree, I decided to remove it and was just left with the turf.
I was inspired when I visited St. Louis, MO a few years ago for a PPA symposium (Perennial Plant Association). We toured a commercial site that had been planned as an "eco-friendly" site featuring many native plantings. There was one I especially liked, a simple mass planting of Echinacea purpurea (coneflower) and Sporobolus heterolepsis (prairie dropseed.)
I decided that would figure out a way to incorporate a similar planting into my own home garden. This type of planting of coneflower and prairie dropseed would need full-sun and could tolerate tough, dry conditions. I decided to go ahead and give it a try in my ~25' by 4' government strip.
First step was to get rid of the turf and I did this by thickly layering cardboard and newspaper on top of the turf, spraying it down with water, and then putting a thick layer of leaf compost on top (soil works too). I let this sit for an entire season or more and in the spring the ground was workable and plantable. To keep costs down, I planted small plugs of the coneflower and prairie dropseed.
I chose to plant Echinacea 'Ruby Star', a deeper rich purple/red selection.
The planning occured in the spring of 2010. Within a year and half, the "strip" has really begun to fill in with the coneflower and prairie dropseed and I really look forward to how it will develop even further. The photos below were taken in August of 2011
I took the following photos earlier today. To me, the echinacea and prairie dropseed offer some aesthetics even in the winter. My hope also is that I will find some goldfinches feeding on the seedheads of the echinacea.
My recommendation to all gardeners is to think outside the box. When you are limited in planting space, look to the unexpected places to plant your garden!