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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

MANY more thymes are detailed and illustrated in Deer in My Garden, Vol.2: Groundcovers & Edgers!

Thymus pseudolanuginosusIT'S ABOUT THYME
This rugged herb is deer-resistant and evergreen

by Carolyn Singer
November 29, 2008

Along a walkway, in a container, over a wall, in a tight corner, and even covering large areas, there is a thyme for every occasion. Spreading rapidly, this attractive evergreen herb has a broad use in the landscape.

Of course I have my favorites. And there are so many to write about that I have to select a few first choices.

Common English thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an upright form with tiny leaves and wonderful flavor for soups, rice dishes, and sauces. Easily overtaken by large herbs such as rosemary and sage, I use this thyme as an edging plant, giving it plenty of space in full sun to form a small mound about twenty inches across and twelve inches tall. While it does not require much irrigation in the heat of the summer, I water it deeply about every 2-3 weeks.

Most creeping thymes grow best in full sun, but a few will tolerate some shade. The best exposure for thymes with bright green leaves (lime thyme, lemon frost thyme) is eastern, with sun in the morning and afternoon shade. If these thymes are grown in full sun, they will need to be watered every other week for best growth. Thymes with gray-green or gray leaves (woolly thyme, Britannicus thyme, and silver needle thyme) prefer full sun and will grow quite well with low irrigation.

Thymus serpyllumBetween steppingstones,Thymus serpyllum minus and Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin' are better choices than the more common woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosis). Woolly thyme grows quickly with long trailing stems, making it a better choice to spill over a wall. 'Elfin' thyme is wonderful as a groundcover in tight places or as a companion plant for herbs in containers. Allow it to grow over the edge of the container for added interest.

Silver needle thyme (Thymus cherlerioides) has gray foliage. The fine, needle-like leaves give it a delicate appearance, but this one is tough, surviving and thriving in sunny, hot locations with little irrigation. It is most beautiful cascading over a wall or around rocks on a slope.

All the creeping thymes grow quite densely, allowing very few weeds to establish, making them excellent groundcovers for large or small areas in the "low maintenance" landscape. Soil does not need to be rich, but should have compost added to our native clay soil. Thymes can be very attractive plants along a path since they are evergreen and require no maintenance.

Thymus herba-baronaSome thymes, such as caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona) are early bloomers in spring, And others are late (Britannicus thyme). Most bloom during the summer months, with blossoms of pink shades, mauve and white. Because it is deer-resistant thyme may be planted outside the fence. I have a rock garden near the entry to my vegetable garden that has ten different cultivars of thyme to attract beneficial insects, with a bench nearby so I can pause to enjoy the hum of activity for several months.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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