The traditional lawn is undergoing a rethink now that droughts are becoming more common as the effects of climate change intensify. On drought-prone, free-draining soil, lawn grass turns brown when under stress. In these conditions a creeping thyme lawn is a beautiful, low-maintenance and nature-friendly alternative to a grass lawn, as long as it suits your garden use. Creeping thyme makes a good lawn replacement in the UK, either alone or combined with other prostrate ground cover plants, although thyme rarely thrives as part of a grass lawn because the grass out-competes plants unless the soil is very low in fertility.
Advantages of creeping thyme lawns
Creeping thyme is a low-growing evergreen perennial, covered in tiny dark green leaves. It looks good all year round. Prostrate and spreading growth never needs mowing and, once established, it needs no watering. Creeping thyme leaves are strongly aromatic when bruised and the scent helps deter troublesome biting insects. In summer, creeping thyme is smothered in white, pink, mauve, or red flowers that are excellent for bees and other pollinators.
Disadvantages of creeping thyme lawn
A creeping thyme lawn doesn’t cope with wear and tear, only tolerating light foot traffic, so a stepping stone path through a thyme lawn would be needed for regular use. A thyme lawn is a great deal more costly to establish than a grass lawn, as thyme must be bought as plants whereas a grass lawn can be grown from seed. While relatively low maintenance once established, regular weeding is necessary, especially while the thyme lawn is establishing.
How to plant a creeping thyme lawn
Plant a thyme lawn in spring. First check that your site and soil is suitable for a creeping thyme lawn.
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Native to the Mediterranean, parsley (Petrosilenum crispum) is a rich source of vitamin C and iron, and is said to cure bad breath and cleanse the skin. Parsley is a biennial, meaning it lives for two years, growing leaves in the first year, then flowering in the second, before setting seed. For this reason parsley is treated as an annual and it’s best to sow seed each year.
Hazel trees are native to Britain and also grow in Europe and some areas of Western Asia. In the UK, you’ll often see hazel growing in hedgerows or woodland. A hazel tree is a good choice for the garden, especially with the wide range of cultivars available, as it can be used for hedging, as a tree in a mixed border or as a shrub. It’s a valuable plant for wildlife and can provide a delicious crop of hazelnuts.
Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) is a creeping woodland perennial in the Oxalidaceae family. It’s native to parts of Asia and most areas of Europe, including the UK. It’s used as an indicator of ancient woodland in southern and eastern England.
If your summer has been anything like ours, your lawn is probably in need of some extra care before the cooler months begin. Following heavy use over summer — whether that’s playing with kids or pets in the garden, hosting sunny picnics, or even a game of football — lawns can become compacted. There are various things you can do, however, to get your garden back into good shape before December, such as scarifying, removing moss, thatch and weeds, aerating, and even feeding if necessary.
There’s around 100 species of helicona, most of which are evergreen perennials native to tropical Central and Southern America. Their enormous glossy leaves are similar to banana plants and can grow to 120cm long. As heliconia can’t be grown in frost prone areas, there are few regions where these plants can be grown outdoors, although some varieties could be placed outdoors in summer. Heliconia flowers come in shades of red, orange, green and yellow.
Mandevilla, also known as Dipladenia, Brazilian jasmine and rock trumpet, is a woody climber native to tropical Central and South America. It has gently scented, vibrant blooms and makes a fine conservatory plant in the UK.
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