Monday, June 10, 2013

Pavement Gardening (2)

As I explained in a previous post, the paths in the garden are my version of a rock garden. Tucked in between the stones are small plants, some that survives foot traffic, and others that keep to the edges not to be trampled on. Mazus reptans is one of the tough plants that has been spreading nicely over the years.  I end the post with a mystery plant you can perhaps help me identify.
Mazus reptans spreading

Mazus reptans close-up

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post on the same topic is that when the paths were built, the top soil was removed to add to the soil in the beds (which was very shallow). So under the paths is only sub-soil, mostly a sticky yellow clay. It is interesting to see that all of these small plants that survive in the paths seem to enjoy this limited diet.

Of course, the stones on the paths ensure constant moisture, and clay is rich in minerals. But it amazes me that plants can do well growing in sub-soil. Most are in bloom now, so I could have included many others.

The thymes do particularly well. Many look alike, but they are all different. Some have started to self-seed. About half of the ones I grow have not started to bloom yet.

Creeping thyme - this one blooms in little clumps
Some bloom a bit like a (beautiful) fungus spreading over the rock

This pale green creeping thyme blooms later on

The difficult part is to get the plants settled in. Seeding them “in situ” does not seem to work in most instances. So they are best started in pots and transferred, once they have started growing. Ideally this is done when they are still very small, because it is not possible to dig much between the stones. This means they have to be watched carefully in the weeks following their transplanting.

However, once settled in, they can put up with a lot. An exception is Dianthus alpinus whose seeds I have always just put in the gravel. It is rather fragile and only for the edge of the paths where it is less likely to be walked on. I hope it self seeds, so that I don’t have to start it again, as it is short-lived.
Alpine Pinks
Alpine Pinks (notice the white ones on the left)

Alpine Pinks

There are many pinks in bloom now. One of the attractive smaller one is Dianthus freynii.

Dianthus freynii
A reliable bloomer is Mountain Sandwort.
Mountain sandwort
Mountain Sandwort

A relatively tall plant (15 cm?) is this dwarf snapdragon (Chaenorhinum origanifolium), a gift from my friend Glen Spurrell who grew it from seed. It is an attractive plant but, because it is very scraggly, it is difficult to take a good picture of it.
Dwarf Snapdragon
 Dwarf Snapdragon
The whole area is limestone, and so it was natural to use it to pave the garden paths. These paths became an extension of the natural setting. In fact, the idea was further expanded, as we simply kept on using the same limestone when we built the livingroom floor (minus the rock garden plants). The only drawback is that these stones are not perfectly levelled, and sometimes only three legs of your chair are touching the floor, so you have to wiggle it until you are properly settled!

Now to the mystery plant. I grew it from seed from NARGS, but have lost the label and do not seem to be able to match it with the lists of seeds I started these last few years. Perhaps one of you can identify it? It is from 5 to 10 cm tall and blooms at exactly the same time as Dianthus alpinus. You can click on it to enlarge it.
In search of a name


  1. You have some real beauties there, and I like your floor! For 30 years, we lived on the Escarpment south of Acton, lots of rock. I am enjoying gardening now in a place where you can push your spade into the ground without hitting stones! Sheri.

  2. I can relate to that. For 20+ year I gardened in a place where the top soil (beautiful loam) was 5 feet deep. I thought all gardens were like that. Starting to garden here, on top of the Escarpment, was a shock. I knew in theory that there was less soil but I had no idea what it meant.


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