Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Foliage Follow-up: In Praise of Thyme

I had no idea what to focus on this month for my foliage follow-up post, the meme hosted by Pam at Digging to celebrate the important role foliage plays in the garden.  Or, to be more accurate, I had several ideas but couldn't get excited about any of them when I went out into my garden to take photos.  Then I noticed how well the creeping thyme surrounding the flagstones in my garden was doing and, instantly, I had my focus.

A number of people have commented on how nice the thyme looks in my southeast side garden.  Frankly, I'm surprised at how well it has filled in since I planted the area close to 18 months ago.

Photo of pathway through my southeast side garden taken earlier this month

Photo of the same path facing the opposite direction, taken yesterday


The thyme I used in this area was Thymus serphyllum 'Minus' (aka wooly thyme), a very low-growing form that spreads widely.  I bought flats and planted small clumps approximately 2 inches in diameter roughly 12 to 18 inches apart around the flagstones.  I watered a few times a week after my initial planting but cut back to twice a week within a month or so.  The area now gets watered once a week during our cool season and twice a week during our warm season.

This photo shows just how densely the thyme grows

"Weeds" such as Erigeron karvinskianus (Santa Barbara Daisy) and Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum) occasionally gain a foothold but they're easily pulled if they try to take over 


When we tore out the lawn in our front yard last year and installed flagstone paths throughout that area as well, it was natural to select the same thyme to fill in between and around the stones.  Upon inspection, I was pleased to find that it's filling in nicely too even though it was just planted in December.

Despite our limited rain and my stingy irrigation, the pretty green carpet is steadily filling in - perfect for both foliage follow-up and St. Patrick's Day!


This area to the left of the front door was planted in late December and somewhat more sparsely than the area on the other side of the doorway but, despite this and the fact that the soil in this area is poorer, the thyme is filling in, albeit a bit more slowly


Although the thyme flowers too, I love mainly it for the dense blanket of evergreen foliage it provides year-round, for its drought tolerance, and for the way it sets off both stone and other plants.

For other foliage highlights, please visit Pam at Digging.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

27 comments:

  1. What a great plant to focus on for Foliage Followup! Your paths look wonderful with it between the flagstones. I have a couple of patches of wooly thyme in my garden, but I don't have it planted in pathways like you. It's a great look.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It turned out even better than I'd expected in the side garden. I hope it does as well in the front.

      Delete
  2. It's a fabulous look Kris, just love the way they hug the flagstones and knit together!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It hasn't overwhelmed nearby plants either - another positive attribute!

      Delete
  3. What a good choice to fill in between your flagstones. Your paths look great! And, as Lefty Frizzell and nursery owners sing, "If you've got the money, honey, I've got the thyme!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to look up Lefty Frizzell. You never cease to amaze me with the range of your cultural references.

      Delete
  4. So so so beautiful!! I love that first shot! It looks so established, not like a fairly new planting at all. I have woolly thyme in a pot with some semps and I really like it. I love how soft it is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it may be the best groundcover I've found for our climate. It certainly spreads quickly.

      Delete
  5. It's great to see it filling in like that! I'm planning on using mixed herbs, succulents, and perhaps some other low-growing types to fill between pavers (which I don't have in yet ;) The effect might prove a bit spotty... The thyme looks perfect around your flagstones. And I'm sure it's much easier to handle with the drought than lawn!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my view, lawns have become impossible to maintain here with limited irrigation, although I've found some ornamental grasses with promise (e.g Sesleria caerulea 'Greenlee'). I used a mix of Ajuga 'Mint Chip' and thyme in one area but the mix is harder to maintain.

      Delete
    2. I'll keep that in mind about the mix - still mulling over the options at this stage! My dear aunt and uncle (San Diego area) are trying to decide whether it's time for their beloved lawn to go... My aunt designed the flower beds, but the lawn has been my uncle's pride and joy for many years :( I suggested they check some of the drought-tolerant turfs at High Country Gardens, but I have no idea whether that would work for them. I'm not a lawn person myself, having watched (and helped with) the upkeep of two acres of lush grass in the Midwest!

      Delete
    3. If you're not already familiar with Pam Penick's blog, Digging, you may want to check it out for your aunt and uncle, Amy. She's written the book, literally, on lawn replacements - it's called "Lawn Gone" - and she periodically posts reports on her own replacement lawn, planted with Carex. For my part, I'm going to expand my planting of Blue Moor Grass, Seslaria, at the bottom of my slope as it seems to be working out well there.

      Delete
    4. Will definitely check it out - thanks!

      Delete
  6. That is some of the healthiest thyme lawn I've seen for quite a while, congratulations! It must really relish the bright, dry SoCal weather - here, after about two years, it mostly starts to go ratty, so to see how healthy yours grows is quite uplifting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used a taller growing variety in my dry garden on the other side of the house and it did get ratty after a couple of years. It may be that this area will go the same route in time but, if I can get a few years out of it, it's probably worth periodic replanting - that's still less laborious than maintaining a lawn.

      Delete
  7. What a great plant to use instead of grass, I suppose eventually you will have to trim it regularly but nowhere near as often as you would have to cut a grass in the same area. I just love your overview photos, your organised, tidy garden is my kind of garden :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thyme did overrun the stone in a few places last summer, Helene, but it was easily trimmed back.

      Delete
  8. Nice work! I wonder, as Helene mentions, if you'll have to trim it back? Is the path well traveled? Maybe just feet going back and forth might be enough?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use those paths constantly. The stone in the side garden did get overgrown in a few places last summer but I trimmed it back once and that was it. It doesn't require constant maintenance like lawn.

      Delete
  9. Easy to overlook but a brilliant plant, I love creeping thyme and have lots in my garden too; as you say the perfect evergreen ground cover.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love it and see more of it in my future, Christina.

      Delete
  10. Dear Kris, your wooly thyme looks just awesome! It is such a wonderful and drought tolerant alternative to grass. I also love the flagstone paths that you laid out in your garden. We have a lot of poured concrete (paths and terrace), which I really don't like and I would love to replace it with flagstone, but for financial reasons that will just stay a dream.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cost of the flagstone wasn't too bad, Christina - it's the laying of the flagstone that presents the challenge. We hauled the flagstone from a local stone yard ourselves and my wonderful husband laid it (backbreaking work!) so we saved there.

      Delete
  11. I do so love a carpet of thyme....the scent and flowers...it is stunning in your walk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The flowers always feel like an extra bonus to me.

      Delete
  12. That is a gorgeous effect. The low growing form sounds a little thirsty to thrive here - I'm probably stuck with the more upright variety that grows with just a little extra water once a week during the hot months. I love to use it in cooking though so having plenty on hand is great. And as you say - the flowers are simply icing on the cake!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Woolly Thyme is so precious! Funny word for it but, it's so little and sweet. I've been attempting to spread it around some pavers. Yours is incredible! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions. However, with apologies to bona-fide commentators, due to a significant increase in spam, I've eliminated the option to post comments anonymously.