When the kids jump out of the car you don't want to wince as they crush your favorite plant, but you do want an attractive garden display. Landscaping side yards next to driveways involves using plants that are tough enough to cope with regular foot traffic and exposure to exhaust fumes and placing them so that there's easy access through the yard. Draw a plan of your side yard and include the final dimensions of plants to avoid pruning chores or scratches on cars from overgrown shrubs.
Planning ahead allows you to landscape a side yard that's low maintenance, attractive and meets your family's needs. Draw a sketch of the yard and note the growing conditions, such as the amount of sunlight it receives and whether the soil is sand, chalk, clay or loam. The plants you choose should grow well in the existing conditions and their final dimensions shouldn't exceed the available space. Choose a design theme that fits in with the style of your house, such as cottage, ranch-style or traditional. Naturalistic plantings in groups of three or five softens the hard lines of driveways.
Side yards next to driveways are often difficult to access for watering and weeding, but thorough ground preparation, adequate spacing for plants and suitable mulches help create a landscape that's healthy and beautiful but requires little maintenance. Dig the ground over to a depth of at least 1 foot, remove weed roots from the soil and add organic matter such as garden compost or well-rotted manure. Space plants according to their final dimensions when planting, and spread a 2- to 3-inch mulch to cover bare soil. Shredded bark, cocoa hulls and wood chip are suitable for high-traffic areas.
Compact, pollution-tolerant shrubs provide low-maintenance interest in side yards next to driveways. Hydrangea "Limelight" (Hydrangea paniculata "Limelight") is a plant for a cottage garden, growing 6 to 8 feet tall and wide, and bearing large clusters of white flowers that mature to lime then fade through pink-rose to beige. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, this deciduous shrub tolerates heat, humidity and urban conditions. Japanese holly "Golden Gem" (Ilex crenata "Golden Gem") is tough shrub suitable for planting next to driveways in formal gardens. Growing well in USDA zones 5 through 8, "Golden Gem" is an attractive evergreen with golden foliage that grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and wide.
Mowing lawns in side yards next to driveways can be awkward and difficult, so grow ground cover plants as attractive lawn substitutes. Stonecrop "Angelina" (Sedum rupestre "Angelina") is a pretty, low-growing evergreen with spiky yellow leaves that turn reddish-orange in fall. Hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, "Angelina" grows 3 to 6 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide and suits a traditional garden. Phlox "Millstream Daphne" (Phlox subulata "Millstream Daphne") is another attractive ground cover. Bearing clear pink flowers with dark pink eyes April through May, it grows 3 to 6 inches tall and 6 to 24 inches wide and has narrow, needle-like leaves. "Millstream Daphne" is suitable for USDA zones 3 through 9 and cottage or traditional gardens. Both plants tolerate exhaust fumes well.