Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pavement Gardening (1)

The paths between flower and vegetable beds in this garden are paved with the local stone, Great Lakes dolomite. Tucked among these, are numerous rock garden and low growing plants. At first glance, as in the picture below, you might not notice the many small things that grow in between the stones. These paths are my version of a rock garden with some tough plants you can walk on, and, congregating near the hedges, where they are less likely to be trod upon, other slightly bigger or more fragile plants that like a hot spot in a tight space between rocks.

The middle of most paths, where we walk all the time, is usually without plants. However towards each side, near the beds, grow all sorts of little things that relish or can survive the heat soaked up by the paving stones, as long as they can keep their roots cool and moist under the rocks. Given that the stones are dolomite, the soil tends to be alkaline, and all acid loving plants have had to be excluded. Below are a few of the plants that have adapted to these conditions. Some were bought, some were started from seed.

This little clover (Trifolium repens pentaphylum) which hugs the ground can apparently be invasive but, through the stones, this patch has perhaps only doubled in size in the three years I have had it. 

Black-Leaved Clover

The Rocky Mountain columbine self-seeds in odd corners, sometimes far from the mother plant.
Rocky Mountain Columbine

Like the columbine, this potentilla cannot be walked on. It put on a good show at this time of the year. One columbine has seeded on the edge of it.

Potentilla neumaniana 'Verna'

Two New Zealanders that look similar. The first one, Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black',hugs the soil and can be walked on without problem.
Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black'

 Acaena microphylla, the New Zealand burr, grows taller, and I expect  it would not put up with a lot of foot traffic. It is one of the few creeping plants that can take some shade.
New Zealand Burr

There are many varieties of thyme not yet in bloom.  Though not a thyme Paronychia kapela ssp. serpyllifolia is is a thyme looking plant that is described as "tough as nails".  The bloom is invisible but has attractive woolly bracts.  This plant drapes over rocks and takes their shapes.

Paronychia kapela ssp. serpyllifolia
There are dozens of different stonecrops, for many of which I am not sure of the proper names. The one that is happiest here, at least the one that self-seeds most successfully, is (I think) Sedum hispanicum var. minus  (Spanish stonecrop). I don’t mind its spreading as it is easy to pull out. It looks slightly different depending on whether it grows in between stones or in good soil where it becomes more lush.

Spanish Stonecrop

There are also many small speedwells that like to grow among stones. Veronica repens selfseeds in the most unpromising places, sometimes right in the middle of the path where it is walked on but where it survives, its little white flowers blending in with the gravel.
Veronica repens

Veronica Whitleyi is a very reliable plant.  It blooms nicely from year to year and does not spread very fast - but cannot be walked on like the Veronica repens can.

Veronica Whitleyi

I also like a taller speedwell (about 15 cm/6 inches) which was sold to me as Veronica Waterperry Blue, but which I believe to be Veronica peduncularis ‘Georgia Blue’ since it is more coral blue than lavender,

Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’

Rhodiola pachyclados makes very nice little rosettes.

Rhodiola pachyclados

The last one is yet another New Zealander, Raoulia australis, the plant with the smallest leaves I have. 
Raoulia australis


  1. Veronica looks great! Like a blue carpet!

  2. That looks very cool, thanks for sharing these pictures. I have been looking at some paving stones to surround most of my backyard with since I have been wanting to update it for quite some time. I have been looking online for some ideas, so I definitely can't wait to get started!

    1. I am glad you like it. As I said in the other article on pavement gardening, it is amazing how these plants perform in poor soil. They take some time to settle as they have to grow root under the stones but when they have, they can put up with a lot. The choice of plants will vary depending on the pH of the soil. Mine is alkaline. If yours is acidic, the selection of plants that will do well will be different. Good luck.


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