Mailbox Landscaping Ideas: Gardening at the Curb
Cottage Mailbox Garden
There are no limits to what you can do with the area around your mailbox. You can do something on a small scale with a simple bed of colorful annuals or you can go for a lush, English garden approach like this one that includes portulaca, roses, black-Eyed Susan vines, cleome, cornflowers, echinacea and monkey grass.
Image courtesy of Manuela Williams
The mailbox area of the yard is usually an afterthought when a new homeowner or home-seller is thinking about how to improve their curb appeal. But make no mistake: First impressions of a house always start at the street and if the mailbox area is an eyesore, that can create a very negative first encounter.
The easiest way to combat this is to enhance the mailbox area with some simple landscaping that can transform the space into an easy to maintain garden or a visual accent that compliments and connects with the overall landscape design.
Before you settle on a landscape concept, you need to critically appraise your current mailbox. If it’s broken, repair it or replace it with a new one. Janine Callahan, owner and lead designer for Showhomes, says, “One of the main things people need to know when they are installing a mailbox is they need to make sure they are within the parameters of their postal system per the height and the distance from the curb. The last thing you want to do is have someone install a mailbox and then have to take it out because the variance was incorrect.”
If you opt to keep your current mailbox, you can spruce it up with a good cleaning or repainting. Homeowners who have a well-maintained brick or stone encased mailbox and prefer a neat, minimalist approach may not want to do anything with this area, especially if their homes are composed of brick or stone. “To have that kind of continuity between the house and the curb really does not need a lot of additions,” notes Callahan. But for those with traditional wooden or metal post mailboxes, a small garden around the base always adds curb appeal.
Keep in mind that whatever you plant in your mailbox garden needs to be hardy since this area of the yard is often subjected to people walking their dogs, storm-water runoff, street salt from winter snow, traffic fumes and other less garden-friendly factors. At the same time, you don’t want to plant something sharp and spiky, like a yucca that could injure someone (like your mail carrier) or scratch car surfaces.
Flowering climbing vines can be an ideal natural decoration for the mailbox and Callahan singles out clematis as a favorite choice because it is a “super simple, easy bang-for-your-buck. The only issue is if they do well in that spot, they will require a little bit of maintenance because they grow quickly and you do need to tie them up so they don’t cover the mailbox.” ‘Albina Plena’ ,‘Blue Dancer’ and 'Pink Flamingo' are all good examples of winter-hardy, disease-resistant clematis.
Depending on the climate zone where you live, here are some other suggestions for flowering vines:
- Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) has evergreen leaves and produces trumpet-shaped flowers that are strongly scented and attract pollinators.
- The sweet pea vine (Lathyrus latifolus) produces flowers that look like tiny orchids and attracts butterflies and bees.
- The morning glory loves full sun, blooms all summer long and makes an ideal climber for walls, trellises and mailboxes with “Sunspots’ and ‘Heavenly Blue’ as two popular cultivars.
- The black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) is a striking ornamental plant that typically produces orange flowers with dark centers and grows well in southern regions of the U.S. such as Texas and Florida.
Callahan recommends petunias “around the mailbox base if you want that constant pop of color.” Some homeowners might do a single annual color scheme for their mailbox garden, as with petunias which can make quite a pleasing visual impact in a mass planting. Other hardy, colorful annuals to consider are marigolds, vinca, portulaca, coleus and zinnias.
The beauty of perennials, of course, is that they come back seasonally and require less maintenance than annual plantings. Callahan, who resides in the Chicago area, suggests lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine), a dense, low-growing, drought-resistant plant with white, woolly foliage.
“A good one that is green and variegated is lilyturf,” she states. “Another favorite is called threadleaf coreopsis and it is bright yellow. That’s particularly pretty with a combination of a salvia, so you’d have the purple with the bright yellow.”
Other perennials that would thrive in a mailbox garden are asters, sedum, purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and daylilies. Some homeowners lavish extra care on this area and the result is a mailbox garden that changes with the seasons. “You can take that bed and do seasonal color,” Callahan advises. “You could plant spring bulbs and then you could move into the salvia and coreopsis and you could also plant some sedum like ‘Autumn Joy’ which has the fall color.”
Another alternative to annuals and perennials that still provides color, texture and movement is ornamental grass. There are many varieties available that would work well in a curb setting and you can try a mix of varieties. You could even mix annuals, perennials and grasses together. Some of the more hardy and popular ornamental grasses are red fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) with its lovely cotton candy-pink plumes.
If you want to go with the lowest maintenance plan possible with your mailbox area, why not forget plants and grass altogether and just landscape the area with a small rock garden of assorted pebbles, stones and gravel? It would still provide a more pleasing visual presentation than the sight of a solo mailbox anchored in the bare ground or concrete.