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Planter Beds–Seperating Pedestrians from Parking Lots

By: Tom Davis Category: Sidewalk Features

Downtown Houston has a lot of room to grow into the parking lots–even in the “high-rise” district. CIMG8562.JPGThe condition of the lots is almost totally at the discretion of the parking lot owners and their operating company if they have one. Most are kept ok but the drawback is the bleak, barren space that blends too easily with the public/pedestrian area; i.e. the sidewalk. At night the darker lots with cars next to the sidewalk worry some walkers that someone could be hiding in the shadows of the cars. Even though downtown Houston has the lowest crime rate in the City that is not much comfort for the pedestrian at night.

An important component of the recently rebuilt streets is a planter bed as you see here. I will add a fourth photo soon that shows a more successful bed than the low green one heNote that plants in bed opposite driveway and protected are  healthy. This side needs protection.re. This one is ok although I think it needs a bollard to keep the cars from running over the end and making it barren as you see here.

There are beds where the plants cannot survive. I have not found a common explanation of why. In some cases one side of the driveway grows great and the other side does not even thought the light, water, vehicle and pedestrian impacts are the same. Each of the beds has a drip irrigation system served by a typical timer-based automatic control valve. But the plants still will not grow anything.

As you can imagine there are maintenance costs associated with the physical effort to replace those that are driven over or broken when stepped on or die for unknown reasons. There is also the cost of the water for irrigation and the cost to maintain the irrigation system as it is also subject to wandering cars and apathetic pedestrians.Powder-coated heavy steel trellis--not cheap!

If you want a great divider and you have the extra dollars then install a pre-fabricated steel wall and plant vines as in this photo. This wall now holds a great mass of Jasmine that can be smelled over a block away when blooming. The steel structure is substantial enough that a driver knows they do not want to hit it. That was a goal of the design as this is the third fence at this location. The parking lot provides parking for a lot young patrons of the businesses across the street and in adjacent blocks. I guess it was a display of manliness to step on the other fences or drive theirParkingLotPlanter1000p96_1.jpg truck across it.

This green wall is on Prairie between Main and Fannin Streets in the historic district. Click here for location map.

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1 Comments to “Planter Beds–Seperating Pedestrians from Parking Lots”


  1. Very well written and informative blog. I too have noticed that street plantings will often do better on one side of the street than the other. There could be different microclimates on each side of the street due to sun/shade differences or reflections off of buildings or parked vehicles.

    I always like to have a min. of 4′ width for any planting area. Any narrower and the environment becomes more extreme for the plants. I do like the “steel wall with vines” idea for narrow areas. There are some attractive new low cost steel fences on the market that are excellent alternatives for replacing ugly chain link fence at a low cost (rather than custom). These would work well for this concept in a renovation or new construction.

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