Patsy Bell Hobson is a freelance writer in Southeast Missouri who never stops talking about gardening. See Todays Harvest Basket at

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Mailbox Gardens
by Patsy Bell Hobson       #Art   #Landscaping

No mowing, no weeding — just prune any winter damage to the rose each spring.

Mail boxes that stand at the end of the driveway are a “good morning sendoff” and the first “welcome home” we receive at the end of the day.

I have heard many people give directions to their homes that end with something along the lines of, “We are the mailbox with blue iris.”

Company and neighborhood walkers will instantly recognize your home by your little mailbox garden. Help first-time visitors or garage sale seekers know they are in the right spot with simple instructions. “We are the house in the middle of the block with the white mailbox and daisies.” Or, “Look for the mailbox with the red Knock Out roses.” As an added bonus, with a mailbox garden lawn weeds and the need to mow around the mailbox posts can be eliminated.

Mailbox art complements the soft color of the roses.

Use your current mailbox or upgrade to a new mailbox that is more up to date. Start your mailbox garden by making sure the mailbox is properly placed. Mailboxes must be placed according to very specific guidelines. Your landscape design must conform to these mailbox requirements. Place the roadside mailbox where a carrier can safely reach inside without leaving the truck. That means positioning it about 41 inches to 45 inches off the ground and back about 6-8 inches from the curb.

The Federal Highway Administration recommends a wooden mailbox support no bigger than 4 inches by 4 inches, or a 2-inch diameter standard steel or aluminum pipe. Bury the post no more than 24 inches deep, so it can give way in an accident.

First, outline or sketch out the area to be landscaped. Then remove any turf or sod by hand with a spade, with a sod cutter or with a weedwhacker. Next, cover that area with either landscape cloth or six to eight layers of overlapping sheets of newspaper. The purpose is to block out weeds and grass.

Then, the landscape cloth area is outlined with predrilled landscape timbers. The timbers are permanently stabilized by pounding in 1-foot rebar lengths through the predrilled timbers. You could also use concrete retaining wall blocks, which are readily available at garden centers or home improvement stores. Finally, finish the area by topping it with mulch or decorative rock.

Add a garage sale planter or a heavy, recycled flower pot to hold colorful annuals. Since this is a public area and the planter may disappear, don't choose a container that is valuable to you.

Two rows of 10 pavers each, two bags of potting soil and two six-packs of marigolds.

Make it is easy to follow the contours at mowing time.

Soon the petunias will tumble over the edges of the galvanized tub. Keep in mind, this container must be watered to keep it blooming all season

Chances are the mailbox garden is the farthest point from a faucet, watering can or hose. Keep your permanent plant selections to a few perennials that easily naturalize and require little or no care.

If you choose perennials, native plant selections or easily naturalized plants are a good choice. Plant iris, roses, daylilies or daffodils, all of which will continue to multiply and will not need regular fertilizer or water. Every three to five years, the little bed will need to be thinned.

You can also change your mailbox garden with the seasons. Dig a hole and drop in an empty liner or old empty plant container. This liner will remain as a permanent place holder for annual containers you can switch out. At the bottom of the hole, add a couple inches of mulch to promote drainage and retain moisture. Then drop in a small container or annuals — perhaps chrysanthemums for the fall, pansies in the spring and summer annuals like petunias for the summer.

Old-fashioned iris will continue to multiply to the driveway, stretching a block of color.

Only grow these sunflowers behind the mailbox and be prepared to prune branches that have gone astray.

Photos by Patsy Bell Hobson


Posted: 07/21/14   RSS | Print


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