The Boulevard Project in August, featuring chicory

Boulevard Project Update: Success!

Three years ago, I decided to do something different with a scruffy patch of weedy grass on the municipal boulevard next to my driveway. The actual grass was losing the battle with weeds I didn’t like — dandelion (Taraxacum) and hairy cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata ). It occurred to me to introduce a better class of weed and make the spot look better than bad. So began the Boulevard Project.

Chicory and Queen Anne's Lace on boulevardMy plant choices were inspired by the plantscape along my cycling route to work, a bike path parallel to one of the main highways into Victoria — chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, red clover, beach pea, and St. John’s wort. These plants in bloom made the roadside quite ornamental in July and August, with no watering at all. So far, I’ve established only two of them on my boulevard — chicory and Queen Anne’s lace. Beach pea (Lathyrus japonicus) now grows in a couple of other spots in my garden (not sure how that happened). I’ve harvested seeds from those plants, and will make a better effort with it on the boulevard next spring. I didn’t manage to collect viable seed of either the clover or St. John’s wort. However, white clover has established itself quite nicely. I have to admit the flowers of hairy cat’s ear on a neighbouring part of the boulevard provide the same shade of yellow as St. John’s wort. (I’m pleased to say my dandelion tool and I have succeeded in keeping hairy cat’s ear out of my patch. Impressive when you consider the mass of airborne seeds those nearby plants produce.).

Chicory flowerChicory (Cichorium intybus) is definitely the star of the show. It’s amazing to find such beautiful blue flowers on a plant that’s an utter weed. I’ve noticed some chicory plants have dark red stems, while others are green. They seem to vary in height too, and harmonize nicely with Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota). My original intention was to cut the chicories down to six inches or lower, and force them to flower near the ground. So far I haven’t had the heart to apply this brutal treatment, but now that the plants are established, I think I’ll do that next year, at least to those growing close to the public sidewalk.

Chicory flower and green bee

Chicory flower visited by a small green bee.  Apparently these are called “sweat bees.” not a very flattering name. Why not “emerald bees?”

Establishing the chicory was a little tricky, because the nonflowering stage of this plant, called a “rosette” in botany — looks a lot like common dandelion and hairy cat’s ear. I had to pay close attention when extracting dandelion and hairy cat’s ear not to extract the young chicory plants by mistake.

Both plants will need to be cut down before they seed wildly and form thickets. I want to retain the idea of grass supplemented with flowering weeds, not a solid weed patch. Let’s not forget that this adjoins a suburban sidewalk, not a rural lane. Every now and then I go out and do some snipping to show that yes, this is a cultivated spot, not a neglected one. I’ve even had one or two compliments from passers-by.

Chicory and fennel on boulevard

A plant of bronze fennel has established itself at the edge of the driveway.  I’ve been tossing California poppy seed pods onto the boulevard, and one tiny plant actually bloomed this summer. I’ve seen a creeping form of broom (Genista species) growing in all sorts of exposed spots, such as highway medians. Perhaps I’ll manage to work that in as well. And I must not forget the aster mentioned in the original post.

The project continues!





  1. I think chicory is pretty. I love the way it blooms periwinkle every morning with a few black sheep of the family blooming pink or even so pale as to look white. It’s neat to see how the flowers follow the sun. I like the pale blue they reach by afternoon. I try to notice them every day before the blooms are gone at sunset.

    I’d never even heard of beach pea. I looked it up, pretty! My goodness, you know a lot about flowers!

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    1. You’ve observed chicories in bloom more closely than I have! They are also useful plants (theoretically). You can dig the roots and force them to produce new growth in a dark, confined space. These shoots are called “Belgian endive.” I tried this once, with success, but I don’t think my cooking skills were up to producing anything delightful. And I’ve heard the dried, ground roots can be used as a coffee substitute. Nope, haven’t tried that one.

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    1. Thanks, Becky! I have to admit I had some misgivings, but ever since water prices went up, lots of folks here stopped watering their boulevards, so mine isn’t the only weedy one. But it is the only one with these plants!

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    1. Haven’t tried that one. I prefer real coffee and haven’t run into a shortage yet. Years ago, I dug up some chicory roots and forced them to sprout in the dark (torture!) to produce “Belgian endive.” You can get it in supermarkets for about $4 per pound. Sadly, I didn’t find it worth the effort after cooking. Most likely I didn’t cook it properly. Now I just grow it for the flowers.


  2. I found tiny native orchid near my front fence the other day. It’s only about 6 inches high and the flower bud is green. It’s amazing what will self- seed given half a chance. I think the orchid survives because I don’t mow the grass near often enough. 🙂


      1. This was certainly unexpected! It’s a big block so most of the year the alpacas eat the grass down. I only mow during in the lead up to fire season. I’m so pleased this little clump of orchids survived both me and the alpacas! lol

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