Reed college hell strip


This first photo gives you some idea of the conditions these plantings have to contend with…cement on all sides and a steady flow of of traffic (and the heavy pollution that implies) with full sun. Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery worked with Reed to develop and oversee the plan, then worked with volunteers on the installation.


The ginkos at regular intervals were already in place, giving the design some structure from the very start. 2-3″ each of compost and crushed basalt gravel were worked into the soil, a mixture that serves to cut through clay soil and encourage deeper root systems. The plantings were watered during the first two years. Now they are watered with hoses once a year, with some supplemental when the temperatures rise into the 90’s.


As you can see, many of the new plants have reached full size.


Foliage color and texture keep things interesting year-round.


Strategically placed boulders are especially handsome with flowering plants spilling over them.


While flowers are not the main attraction, there are enough of them to brighten the design.


These asters were just coming on.


This crape myrtle was the most dramatic plant of all. I had no idea what it was (none of the plants in the strip are labeled) but HPSO always features a display of blooms contributed by members at every event, so I soon learned that it is Lagerstroemia ‘Arapaho’. I had never seen a crape myrtle with anything other than those Pepto Bismol pink flowers, and had valued it mainly for its fall color. This one is truly stunning, dressed in wine and claret.


This bottle brush shrub contributed in its own quiet way.


Pebble mosaic stepping stones allow workers into the border to perform maintenance chores.

The last time I visited was in the spring, when Ceanothus were blooming their hearts out. This time it looked as if there had been a recent work party to replenish the gravel top dressing and spruce things up.

7 thoughts on “Reed college hell strip

  1. Wow, Ricki, thanks for show & tell-ing the details of this wonderful addition to your community! I had read about the Reed hell strip in another article, but hadn’t seen the more recent vintage of plant maturity you show. Interesting that they worked gravel in as well as compost to break up the clay – I had heard that could result in concrete! But I guess it must have worked, the plants look amazing. Does Portland not have restrictions on sightlines between the sidewalk and the street? I know Seattle does, which limits plant choice somewhat.

  2. Hi Ricki, I too was wondering about the restriction of sight for traffic, but they must have thought about that one assumes. It is beautiful and the textural interest helps make it so. Love that dark bloomed crepe too, a nice addition. 🙂

  3. We had to work with the city when we lived in town and our street trees began to obscure a stop sign. They were most accommodating, and made a little elbow at the top of the post, so the sign would stick out further into the street, and we limbed up the trees…problem solved. I must confess to not noticing the signage around the strip, but I did notice that the border gets lower toward the ends, where a car might be entering traffic. SE 28th Street runs along the edge of the campus, and there are only a few cross streets. I think part of the reason for this effort was to change attitudes about what is acceptable to both city and citizens, so I’m pretty sure the city was consulted from the outset.

  4. Joco: I agree. The Ginkos are splendid. We have one that is a mere sprig, and I can attest that they are slooow-growing. I’m fine with that, as when they mature to the point of producing nuts, the darn things smell exactly like dog poop.

  5. Pingback: sprig to twig » Blog Archive » Joy Creek dry gardening seminar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *