Gardening with Estella Heitman: Plants that love small spaces |

Gardening with Estella Heitman: Plants that love small spaces

Sedums are relatively inexpensive, they grow and thrive in our often harsh climate and they are readily available from local nurseries.
Courtesy Photo

Plants that thrive in small places are invaluable in our mountain setting, where most of our planting areas include rocks, steep inclines and stepping-stone walkways. Many of these plants are hearty, often require very little care once established, crowd out unwanted weeds and lend beauty and softness to otherwise stark areas of our yards and gardens.

• Sedums: There are literally hundreds of varieties of creeping sedum, which come in wide range of leaf colors including gray/silver, red/purple, blue/green, and variegated, depending on the variety.

Sedums are relatively inexpensive, they grow and thrive in our often harsh climate, and they are readily available from local nurseries.

They have been described as a “nearly perfect plant,” attractive from early spring and through the entire growing season. They are drought-tolerant and need very little if any care. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Sedums provide excellent source of weed control but are somewhat too fragile to tolerate foot traffic. They are best used within rock gardens and along walkway edges.

Sedums thrive in full sun in garden areas with good drainage.

• Creeping thyme: Creeping thymes also come in a multitude of varieties. They grow best in alkaline soils common to our area. They require little to no fertilization and, in fact, often do best in poor soils.

Thymes like full sun but can tolerate partial shade, as well. Many varieties thrive in small rock garden crevices, cascading down over rocks and walls to create a soft and beautiful textural feature.

Thymes are one of the few ground covers that can be walked on. They make good spacers between stepping stones and along walkways. They are excellent plants for crowding out unwanted weeds.

A word of warning in purchasing thyme plants for a new area in your garden: Be sure to read the plant description carefully. Thyme plants are not deeply rooted, and if a large growing variety is planted in too small a space, it may soon outgrow its source of water and nutrition, growing onto paving areas and ultimately dying back to a matte of dead stems.

Careful attention to the planting suggestions listed on labels will result in placement of a suitable thyme plant in a growing area where it will thrive. Thymes are aromatic herbs with wide culinary uses, as well. They can be used fresh or dried.

• Hens-and-chicks: This longtime favorite of our mothers and grandmothers remains a popular choice for Routt County gardeners looking for a plant that fills small spaces and is extremely drought and deer resistant.

The plants produce small rosettes that multiply vigorously and form dense colonies. They are excellent between stones and often grow in places where nothing else can be encouraged to prosper.

They should initially be planted a foot apart, and they should be thinned as crowding becomes evident.

Leaf colors are red/purple, blue/green, or yellow depending on the variety. Flowers are pink or yellow. Hen-and-chicks thrive in full sun.

Estella Heitman is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 or email with questions.

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