Some consider a mailbox garden to be a gauche, unnecessary decorative feature that only calls attention to an ugly utilitarian item. Others, however, are actually fond of their mailboxes and seek to adorn them. There can be other motivations for planting around a mailbox--you may be one of those gardeners who simply can’t resist the opportunity to coax a vine up a bare pole, or perhaps you’re tired of hauling out the string trimmer every week to keep the area looking neat. Some homeowners long for bright flowers but find that the mailbox is on the only sunny spot on their property. If you’re in the “I’m going down there twice a day anyway and I want something pretty to look at” camp, here are some pointers for creating a planting that will make checking the mail a pleasure.
• Be a good neighbor first and foremost. Your planting must not interfere with mail delivery or snow removal. Be sure it does not obstruct motorists’ line of sight, or present a hazard or nuisance to passersby or traffic.
• Consider the style of your house and neighborhood before planting. A cottage-style planting of wildflowers may be perfectly appropriate in a casual or rural setting, but would look out of place in a neighborhood with more manicured lawns. Check to be sure that your mailbox garden will not violate any neighborhood association guidelines.
• Don't make things hard for your mail carrier. Be sure that your house number isn't obscured, and take care that nothing planted in the immediate vicinity of the mailbox will act as a bee magnet.
• Choose hardy plants capable of withstanding piles of snow and exposure to salt and other snow-melting solutions. Those in warmer parts of the country will need to consider water availability and the plants’ adaptability to heat and drought.
• Aim for year-round or at least three-season interest. Perennial grasses and the seed heads of plants like clematis and echinacea remain attractive long after most flowers are finished. Daffodil bulbs tucked under an early bloomer like perennial geranium will add cheer in the spring. Contrasts in foliage colors stand out even when nothing is blooming.
• Think carefully before you plant something to clamber up the mailbox post. Keep in mind that if the post is painted, you will have to remove or cut back any vines whenever you repaint. A clematis is a natural mail post companion, but choose a small variety that won’t eventually swallow your mailbox. Morning glory vines are also charming, but their reseeding can become a nuisance.
• Choose plants appropriate for the exposure, as with any garden planting. Daylily, achillea, coneflower, sedum, geranium and nepeta are all tried-and-true perennial choices for a sunny exposure. Good plants for a shaded mailbox include hosta, coral bells, pachysandra, ferns and shade-tolerant grasses. If you’re quite sure that you’ll remember to carry a watering can with you each time you get the mail, you may choose to plant annuals.
• Keep in mind the ultimate size of anything you plant. Your planting should stay in proportion to the mailbox, and ideally blend in with any other plantings in your yard. A shrub can serve to anchor the planting, but be very careful that it will not overwhelm the mailbox when mature.
• Aim for easy care. Don’t make the mistake of surrounding the planting with rocks or bricks sticking out of the ground that will make mowing difficult and demand hand trimming. Stick to tough, undemanding plants. Provide a generous mulch to keep weeds at bay.
An attractive mulch holds down weeds in this planting featuring multi-colored foliage. Grass, daylilies and coral bells accent this architectural mailbox. This green mailbox is surrounded by a simple but colorful combination of perennial grass, yellow daylily and nepeta. These neighbors share a mailbox post and a welcoming entrance to their driveways. The mailboxes painted with floral themes look right at home in the planting.