Garden Q&A: 'Stepables' designed for walkway
Q : I have a walkway that is too dangerous to mow. What plants would you suggest for planting around stepping stones? The stepping stones are secure, but the weeds and long grass are unsightly. Your ideas would be appreciated.
A: To fill in the cracks between stepping stones or pavers, you'll want to select plants that are tough, low-growing and have a rapid growth rate. Thankfully, there are many plants that suit your needs.
In fact, there is an entire line of plants called “Stepables” that were selected based on their ability to handle foot traffic and remain compact. You can start your search for appropriate plants by heading to any local nursery that carries the “Stepables” line of plants. You also can peruse the offerings at www.stepables.com.
After getting rid of any existing weeds, I would suggest mixing three or more plant species to provide some diversity and insurance if one of them fails to fill your needs. Blending several plants together also adds texture and interest to the walkway. Here are a few of my favorites.
• Wooly thyme and elfin thyme are both great choices. They release a lovely herbal fragrance when stepped on and are extremely tolerant of foot traffic. They hold up well in drought and require very little care. They spread fairly quickly and produce pink and purple flowers in early summer.
• Mazus reptans is an inch-high ground cover that bears small white or purple flowers that are shaped much like a duck's foot. The foliage creeps along quickly and does an excellent job of drowning out weeds. The only negative of this wonderful little plant is its intolerance of salt, so if you plan to use salt in the winter to melt the ice on your stepping stones, this plant is not the best choice.
• Kenilworth ivy is another sweet selection. Reaching only 2 inches in height, this plant spreads by forming tiny, above-ground runners that reach out from the mother plant and fill in gaps fairly quickly. Miniature selections bear half-inch-wide, rounded leaves and little purple flowers throughout the summer. Kenilworth ivy does best in partial to full shade.
• And lastly, any of the miniature sedums will do quite nicely. There are dozens of them on the market, and it's a good bet that your favorite local nursery will have a few to pick from.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
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