"Here's the deal - I need some low shrubs for a corner tree bed that can withstand not being watered, car exhaust, lots of dog (and sometimes child) pee, trampling, abuse by high school kids, and lots and lots of cigarettes."
At first, the woman stared back at me, mouth on pavement, panic in her eyes. Slowly, her eyes moved out of focus, beyond my head, and began to scan the acres of annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, herbs, veggies, and garden gnomes.
"You don't live around here do you?"
"Gary. GARY!, can you help this woman please"?
Luckily, Gary was used to dealing with "city folk" and was able to set me up with a few nice shrubs and plants for our tree bed. (A note on Gary, his experience with "city folk" was extremely rich people who had large roof decks in Manhattan, which is not us either).
A few months ago, as part of their plant a million trees campaign, the City dug up our stump and planted a little linden. They very carefully moved my rather sad container shrubs and very carefully uprooted my just emerging bulbs, and placed everything off to the side. The freshly mulched and top soiled tree bed has been barren ever since, slowly gathering weeds and the ire of the block association (I kid!).
I knew I needed to plant something but hadn't had the time. While home in NJ, I stopped by a great nursery (Rostlers in Allendale) and picked up a carfull of plants that would tolerate not being watered and being peed on. Bayberry, a thorned and beautiful bush was a natural choice as were some sedeums and a big spiky thing that promised to send up an ostentatious 5 foot bloom in the late summer.