Plants for Paving Stones

Count yourself lucky if your garden path is paved with stones, for it can be developed into a charming pathway. All you need are paving plants – and there are plenty from which to choose. These can be used, of course, to accent not only paths but walls and terraces, too.

A good paving plant is neat in habit and has the ability “to sit tight.” Rampant plants such as alyssum, candytuft and nepeta should be reserved to soften the straight-cut edges of the walk. Here they may sprawl at will. For the path itself, plants should be chosen to insure comfortable walking for you and your guests. To grow well, they will need good drainage and from 2 to 4 inches of soil in the spaces between the stones. To prevent the paving plants from becoming woody and thick, you can cut them back close to the ground after flowering to allow new growth to develop among the stones.

red primula

Small Gems of Nature

Nature has generously saved many small gems for low plantings, where their miniature loveliness can best be appreciated. You will find the Corsican sandwort, Arenaria balearica, a beauty. A tiny glossy-leaved carpeter, it creeps far and wide when established and, in time, may strangle every plant within its reach unless controlled. It is equally happy in either stun or shade if the soil is cool.

Brought to this country from the Balearic Isles in the Mediterranean, the Corsican sandwort has proved questionably hardy north of New York, except in protected locations. The mossy green foliage, which is covered with tiny, brilliant white flowers, makes a fairy-like carpet not over 3 inches high. Another variety. Arenaria verna caespitosa (Arenaria caespitosa) or moss sandwort, is larger and blooms all summer long providing a continuous display.

Bellflowers – Garden Path Candidates

There are several candidates for your garden path among the bellflowers or campanulas. Campanula garganica, a compact plant 3 to 6 inches tall, is literally smothered in June with starry blue flowers. The Dalmatian bellflower. Campanula portenschlagiana, is one of the loveliest and most useful of the smaller campanulas. It blooms almost continuously, its large violet-blue bells held on erect 6 to 9-inch stems. Campanula caespitosa (Campanula pusilla l blooms from July to October, forming dense mats 4 to 6 inches high, dotted with dainty pale blue flowers of enchanting beauty.

Tuck the alpine pink, Dianthus alpinus, in a protected nook. It is most effective at the base of a stone step and will grow contentedly there. For such a dwarf plant, with tiny narrow leaves and slender stems, it produces a liberal amount of large pink flowers during June and July. One little plant in my own garden only 6 inches tall put forth 27 flowers, each nearly an inch across. The white variety, Dianthus alpinus albus, is not quite as showy.

The creeping gypsophila, Gypsophila repens, is an attractive trailing carpeter which does well in dry places. All summer the pink or white blossoms drift in misty clouds above mounds of silvery-gray foliage.


The toadflaxes, or linarias, have especial individuality. Linaria alpina is a trailing dwarf alpine with narrow blue-gray leaves. The sprawling flower stems, about 4 inches high, make a mat of foliage for the flowers, which are lilac-blue with flaming orange throats. Linaria alpina roses has pale pink flowers with orange throats. The loveliest toadflax of all, I think, is Cymbalaria hepaticaefolia (Linaria hepaticaefolia), the liverleaf toadflax. Its deep green fleshy leaves are kidney-shaped and turn a soft plum color in the fall. It makes a low mat and spreads rapidly, blooming almost continuously from May until frost. The flowers, which are considerably larger than those of the other toadflaxes, are light blue with a white throat.

One Of The Best Creepers

One of the best creepers for carpeting large areas is Mazus pumilio. Less than half an inch high, it forms a dense carpet of clear green. The starry blossoms are lilac-blue with a white throat.

The requirement, Mentha requieni, is well worth trying to establish, even though it is apt to be tender. It prefers a cool and somewhat sheltered position. This Corsican herb makes spreading mats of shiny green leaves, with mauve flowers in loose whorls. The charm of this tiny mint lies in the delightful peppermint fragrance given off by the leaves when they are stepped on.

The mossy saxifrages are good for planting in crevices. Saxifraga decipiens makes a dense cushion about 3 inches high, with large white flowers in May and June. It prefers part shade and a cool soil. Saxifraga decipiens bathoniensis has scarlet-crimson flowers on stems 10 inches high.

Thymes Rank High

The thymes, too, rank high as paving plants. All of the smaller kinds are good and provide dense mats of foliage. Thymus serpyllum, or mother-of-thyme, is a lovely carpeter with its creeping habit and handsome dark green leaves. During the summer, the green carpet is transformed into clouds of lilac-purple flowers. The crimson thyme, Thymus serpyllum coccineus, is a showier plant with brilliant carmine flowers.

For a downy gray carpet of exquisite softness, the woolly thyme, Thymus serpyllum lanuginosus, is unequaled. Its flowers are pink, and in the late fall, the gray-green leaves take on a rosy tinge. Not more than 3 incites high, the woolly thyme covers large areas with its billowy softness. The dimes thrive in dry, sunny places with poor soil. When the leaves are stepped on, especially after a rain, the air becomes refreshingly fragrant.

Blooms All Summer Long

The dainty tunicflower, Tunica saxifraga, is a fragile jewel which blooms all summer long. The wiry stems, less than 8 inches high, bear masses of pale rose or white flowers. There is a double white form and a semidouble deep pink.

Among the low-growing speedwells, or veronicas, are many worth-while plants. The comb speedwell, from Asia Minor, Veronica pectinata, is one of the best. The trailing stems and ascending branches are covered with gray hairs, so that the effect is of a soft woolly carpet. In May this speedwell is covered with a wealth of deep blue flowers, with white stamens and centers. There is an equally attractive pink variety with pale pinkand-white flowers. Another member of this family which takes to crevices is the densely tufted rock speedwell, Veronica latifolia (Veronica rupestris).

There are a number of other plants that lend themselves well to a paving stone planting. Among them are the carpet bugle, Ajuga reptans, with white bluish-purple flowers; the Geneva bugle, Ajuga genevensis, with blue flowers; purple-flowered Satureia aIpina; and (Calamitalta alpina) alpine savory or the maiden pink, Dianthus deltoides, the flowers of which are red or pink with a crimson eye.

And don’t forget the many varieties of low-growing primroses, the starry blue forget-me-not or the sempervivums or houseleeks. Many of the paving plants listed here are also well adapted for planting between the flags of a terrace or in the crevices of a rock wall.

by I Jardine

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