Hello fellow readers, Last week’s chat about cleaning stone walks and patios without harming plants in the nooks and crannies brings the question of favorite plants between steppingstones or amid patios.
I adore volunteers
Many favs found their way on their own, like the Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla) given by a dear friend long ago. The ladies jumped from the side of the patio, rooting themselves amongst it, growing as miniatures of their mom due to limited root space. I adore how morning dew and raindrops gather like droplets of diamonds on their fan-shaped leaves with tiny teeth at the tips.
Then there’s Coral Bells (Heuchera) that self-seeded too amongst the moss and sedums. Coral Bells have many varieties, and enthusiasts collect them much like Hosta lovers, though deer don’t love heuchera like Hosta. Still, they nibble them from time to time. Mine is the go-to maroon-leafed one, ‘Palace Purple,’ that dangles tiny pink sprays of flowers.
“Ambitious” Native Common Blue Violet
The native Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia), also known as Woolly Blue-Violet or Wood Violet, decorates lawns in early spring with heart-shaped leaves and sweet-smelling purple flowers pollinators crave. I adore how they’ve made their way amongst the patio and adorn the surrounding boulder wall. It’s a shame that some fastidious turf folks consider them a weed.
Some say Common Blue Violet can be invasive, but how can something so beautiful (and edible—both the flowers and leaves are high in vitamin A & C) be considered so? Instead, view them as ambitious.
So, as you can see, kind readers, my nooks and crannies are filled with goodies that came “hands-free”—my favorite kind of gardening :^) But a few things were planted intentionally, such as creeping thyme that smells wonderful as you step.
I planted the classic Wooly Thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Pseudolanuginosus’) that can handle the hotter full-sun areas leading to the garden bench. Another I adore is ‘Elfin’ Thyme (T. serpyllum), which forms a mat of gray-green foliage with light pink flowers covering the vegetation in summer.
Nooks and Cranny Plants for Barefeet
David of Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, NJ, advised that creeping thyme attracts bees and therefore is not ideal for barefooted traffic. Since then, I discovered Pink Chintz Thyme (Thymus ‘Pink Chintz’), which blooms earlier when folks aren’t likely in bare feet. Or there’s Mazus (Mazus reptan), a sturdy creeper covered with tiny purple or white flowers in early spring.
How about a low-growing Stonecrop, also known as Sedum? As the name suggests, ‘Red Carpet’ (Sedum spurium) has reddish succulent leaves. Though it doesn’t flower, the foliage is beautiful all season long. And there’s John Creech Stonecrop (Sedum spurium) with scalloped green leaves and little pink flowers that also form a weed-suppressing carpet.
Other beautiful choices are Dwarf Bugleweed (Ajuga x ‘Chocolate Chip’) with mottled chocolate foliage that likes full sun or shade or ‘Silver Beauty’ (A. reptans) with creamy edged variegated leaves that grows into a tight mat.
Let’s not forget Irish Moss (Sagina subulata) with its lush carpet of green fuzz for shadier spots. Or enchanting Bronze Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens ‘Autopurpureum’ ) looking like tiny shamrocks with maroon leaves edged in green.
So many goodies to choose from! But a word about expectations—there will be weeding to tend to until your favorite plants between steppingstones or amid patios take over. But there’s something therapeutic about weeding undesirables, just as in the garden of life.
Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com (and on your favorite Podcast App.)
There’s more to this story in Episode 51 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast: