GARDEN CORNER: Consider carrier when landscaping near mailbox | County Life
I notice what people are placing around their mailboxes, and I sometimes wonder if they were considering their postmen when making plant decisions.
Not only do postmen have to put up with dogs and other pesky animals, but an immovable object like a plant shouldn’t cause them any problems. This is another example of the importance of placing the right plant in the right place.
In the first place, leave thorny plants to a different part of the garden. If you need to plant a rose behind the mailbox, make sure to keep the bush away from the mailbox to avoid scratching your arm.
Blackberries, raspberries, and prickly pear cacti are other plants that are best kept away from the mailbox. Remember, small plants become big plants soon.
I am going to share with you a story about prickly pear cacti. My husband invited me to his beach house for a weekend. He was mowing the lawn, so I decided to do some weeding. I sat on the floor and shot back while clearing an area. I just slipped on a little prickly pear. Small didn’t mean it was free of needles.
Trust me, it was quite humbling for my future husband to take tweezers and pull needles out of my derriere.
I read suggestions on how to design mailboxes and many recommended vines like Mandevilla. First of all, like most vines, this vine grows on the post and above the mailbox. Mandevilla blooms from early summer to frost. The flowers are very attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Sure, the butterflies and hummingbirds are harmless enough, but the bees can sting. This can be a real safety issue if your postman has a bee venom allergy. You’ll also need to commit to cutting the vines away from the front of the mailbox.
A better idea would be to place the vines on a trellis in a different part of the garden where wildlife and humans alike can enjoy their beauty.
Herbaceous perennials were another popular recommendation for mailbox plantings. Once again, many perennials and yearbooks attract bees and wasps. This increases the likelihood that a bee or wasp will decide to set up housekeeping in your mailbox.
This is a quote from the USPS Domestic Mail Manual: “If the mailbox is unsafe to use, the carrier can return the mail to the office, inform his manager, and contact the customer immediately for urban or rural delivery continue. “
In other words, if you don’t clear the nest on time, the postal service will stop delivering your mail.
Even if you’ve just left the grass around the mailbox, there’s always a chance a poisonous plant like poison ivy will pop open. Refer to the USPS for secure access. Toxic plants are not safe and can be very harmful to people like me, who can develop a rash just looking at poison ivy.
With your voicemail connected to your house, don’t think you’re getting a free pass. If you have containers of flowers near your mailbox that will attract bees and wasps, you should reconsider. Also, consider whether your pot placement poses a trip hazard for your postman.
So what are some good plant choices? Lawn is always an option.
When I went to school my landscape designer said why you want to draw attention to something that is not attractive. But I can appreciate the desire to make the mailbox look nice. Short ornamental grasses such as Blue Fescue or Mondo Grass can be noticeable, especially the black-leaved dwarf.
Carex is another option. It looks like grass, but it’s a sedge. My perennial teacher taught me how to differentiate between grass-like plants with the saying: “Sedges have edges, rushes are round and grasses have joints when the bulls are not around.”
Sedums are also an option. These are all drought tolerant plants, which also needs to be considered.
I was just scratching the surface here. There are many options, but keep the person in front of the mailbox in mind when making your choices.
In case you’re wondering, my husband was never a postman.
While we all practice social distancing and buildings in Halifax County, including the Halifax Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, are still closed to the public due to COVID-19, the best way to have any gardening questions is to email a master gardener or extension worker can be reached by email at [email protected] or [email protected] If you are unable to send email, you can call and leave a message at the Extension Master Gardener’s help desk at 434-830-3383 providing your name, phone number and the type of call you are calling. The help desk phone will be checked daily and someone will be in touch even though it may be from a different phone number. Keep washing your hands, wearing your mask, and taking your postman into account when designing your mailbox.
Happy New Year and be safe and stay healthy in 2021.
Cornell is a Southside Master Gardener with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office.