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Planting a Pocket Garden

by Carole McCray

If you tuck thyme in between cracks and crevices of a brick walkway, sandwich sea thrift in between garden stair risers, or nestle dianthus in the niche of a stone wall, you are planting a pocket garden. Filling in the nooks, crannies and crevices is best achieved with rock garden or alpine plants. Rock garden plants are slow growers ideally sized for pocket planting. Many bloom from spring through summer. True alpines are found growing at high altitudes above the timberline and are early bloomers in order to flower and set their seed before the arrival of winter. The staff at your Growise Center can recommend the best plants for pocket gardening in sun, shade, and your climate zone.

Plus side to Pocket Gardening

1. The color or plants can provide a contrast or can complement the color of brick, stone, or wood.

2. Plants are attractive softeners against brick, stone, or wood.

3. Plants lend a different texture to contrast with the solid look of brick, stone, or wood.

4. Planting in mini spots is ideal for gardeners with limited space.

5. Pocket planting can improve the appearance of your property. A brick walkway prone to winter heaving, or a forlorn, stone wall enclosure can be enhanced with filler of flowery plants and greenery.

Horizontal Planting for Fragrance and Foot Traffic

Chamomiile (Chamaemelum nobile) - releases apple scents when walked upon; lacy foliage and daisy-like flowers from low growing, spreading mats. Plant in between path or walk crevices.

Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) - has a strong peppermint fragrance and is a mat-forming, creeping perennial suitable for planting between walkway crevices in partial shade.

Thyme (T. caespititius) - is highly aromatic and ideal for walking upon its one-inch mat with lilac-pink flowers.

Thyme (T. x citriodorus) - fills the air with a lemon scent when its gold and variegated leaves are crushed underfoot.

 Sun-lovers for Vertical Gardens (Bank, Wall, or Slope)

Aubrieta x Cultorum 'Joy' - is ideally named for spreading its vigorous, mat-forming, soft green leaves and short-stemmed double mauve flowers. Suited for well-drained, sunny banks.

Rock Cress (Arabis x Arendsii 'Rosabella') - a robust, compact perennial, is good for spilling its rosy clusters down a dry bank or wall; pretty in crevice plantings, too.

Saponaria Ocymoides - referred to as Tumbling Ted or Roack Soapwort, it is true to its name and rapidly spreads a mat of pink flower clusters 3" high.

 Shade Seekers for Vertical Gardens

 Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) - does best in partial shade, but can tolerate sun as well. It reaches to 2' and bears chartreuse flowers.

Phlox - (P. 'Chatahoochee') bears slender or tubular shaped flowers of lavender-blue with a maroon eye; 6" phlox likes well-drained and partial shaded area.

Saxifraga - (S. granulata) is an alpine plant known as Fair Maids of France. White saucer-shaped flowers reach 10" in light shade.

 Horizontal Planting out of Harm's Way

Plants with low tolerance to heavy foot traffic; place between risers and stair treads or at edges of walkways and steps:

Hens and Chicken (Sempervivum tectorum) - is a succulent whose red-purple rosettes prefer sun and a well-drained soil.

Lamium maculatum "White Nancy' - blooms of white or lavender on variegated foliage reach to 12"; likes partial shade.

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) - has globular, rosy, pink, or white flowers on compact, tufted foliage; height of 6 inches.

How to Plant

Forget traditional tools; try a butter knife, a tablespoon, or a putty knife for reaching into tight, vertical spaces. Make a small cardboard tray; place seeds on it. Blow seeds into crevice that has been filled with good soil. Mist with a spray bottle. Add dampened newspaper for much. Mist seeds regularly during germination and until well established.

Establishing plants in pockets can be tricky. To prevent plants from falling out of crevices, roll the roots of the plants in turf cut from the lawn. It should resemble a jellyroll. Give the roots a good soaking, and place plant inside the crevice. Continue to regularly give the plant good soakings until firmly rooted in place.

Visit your Growise Center for plants and ideas to get you started on filling the gaps, planting the pockets, and cultivating a crack and crevice garden.

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