Perennial border on the street side of the fence in...

Perennial border on the street side of the fence in front of jessica damiano's home. Tall Agstache blue fortune punctuates the center of this border, flanked by medium-height purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans. Lavenders, helleniums, blanket flowers, daylilies, lily turf, coreopsis and dianthus come out from the center, with roses on either end. For LI Life story about growing perennials ( Newsday Photo/Jessica Damiano ) ltc Credit: Newsday/Jessica Damiano

It's exposed to exhaust fumes from passing cars, it's too narrow to soak up sufficient water, and it can get pretty hot under the blazing sun. That thin strip between the street and the sidewalk has earned its name, both because it's surrounded on all sides by heat-retaining concrete and asphalt and because, well, it's less than heavenly to get plants to thrive there. But if you select the right plants, you can turn your "hell strip" into a low-maintenance traffic stopper, as long as your town doesn't prohibit it.

If ever there were a spot in the garden that begged for xeriscaping, this is it. (Xeriscaping is the practice of planting drought-tolerant plants.) Prepare the strip as you would the garden, removing all existing vegetation, tilling the soil and enriching it with compost. Though the strip is visible from all sides, you can treat it like a border since it's so narrow, with a tall focal point in the center and plants gradually decreasing in height toward both ends.

At the nursery, look for the "drought tolerant" classification on plant tags. Consider Sea holly (Eryngium planum; 2-3 feet tall; full sun; blooms June through September), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida Goldsturm; 2-3 feet tall; full sun; blooms June through September), red hot poker (Kniphofia; 3-4 feet tall; full sun; blooms May to June), lilyturf (Liriope; one foot tall; full sun to part shade; summer flowers give way to berries in fall), wormwood (Artemisia x Powis Castle; 2-3 feet tall; full sun to part shade; a foliage plant with lacy silver leaves).

You might prefer to arrange shorter, mounding plants and ground covers throughout, maybe with a small tree situated off-center. Some plants to consider include Elijah blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca, which grows in a compact 8-inch mound), hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum; full sun to part shade), and the reblooming Stella de oro daylily (Hemerocallis, grows to just 12 inches tall in a compact clump). There are many others to choose from, so do your research.

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