Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Monday, 11 August 2014

Portland Inspiration: Between the Paving

We have a large patio which I've spent ages keeping free of weeds and moss over the years. Since coming back from the Portland Fling I've been pondering some of the ways gardeners there use the spaces between their paving and how their ideas might add an extra dimension to my garden.


Japanese gardens are big on moss and the Portland Japanese Garden was no exception. I've tried to be more relaxed about moss since I saw a similar feature at The Bloedel Reserve in Seattle 3 years ago, but I've come to the conclusion that whilst it looks good in this kind of setting, it doesn't translate that well onto my patio.


This is more like my garden's setting and I liked the way Omphiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' is used to separate different parts of the hardscaping at the John Kuzma garden, even though I'm not that keen on the particular plant used.


I preferred this 'woollier' approach seen at the Ernst Fuller gardens, though this time the plants are being used along a path rather than separating particular areas of the garden. Note also the contrasting gravel containing pieces of tumbled coloured glass. I saw this at a couple of other gardens and liked how this addition would add a different dimension in wet weather, especially when the sun shines on it afterwards.


At Floramagoria the owners had made a grass feature within their patio, which is set to fill out further over the season. We did have similar planting pockets in our patio's original design, but decided they wouldn't be that practical. Seeing this did make me regret that decision, but my practical head still says no.


Bella Madrona was fun, quirky and the ultimate party garden. Here I liked the re-use of bottles as paving with spaces left for planting, almost like a gravel garden. I'm not about to rip up my paving to reproduce this idea, but it is filed away for later.


Back at the Ernst Fuller gardens, I did like the way the gravel's been used to provide a neat contrast with the paving and add an extra line. The whole composition - hardscaping, planting, pots and other features is pretty good too.


Going forward, I'm going to create a line of planting to separate the patio from the top of the 3 sets of steps leading to the rest of the garden. I also want to introduce more scent, so I'll be sowing some orange scented thyme along the straight line you can see leading from the pig. A packet of seed costs a mere £1.35, so this is a budget (and bee) friendly way of doing something different.

The plant you can see at the end of the line is the Erigeron I planted a while ago and I don't mind if any seed from this intermingles with that of the thyme. I may also sow some thyme elsewhere - I have plenty of seed - between the cracks of the garden's side path for instance.

I'll also be adding some fine horticultural gravel into the rest of the cracks. This will help to keep the weeds and moss at bay and give the patio a more finished look.

This is the first post I promised about the inspiration I found during this year's Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland. Some will be simple and quick pieces, others may be more lengthy. I'll also explain how I'm taking the inspiration into my garden, where applicable. Whilst these are my personal notes, I hope you'll also find them useful.

22 comments:

  1. I surprised myself by liking the neat gravel and paving (predictably, am loving the Japanese moss + stones). Paving is a bit of a dilemma; for me, the trick is trying to control everything that wants to grow and restricting it to what I want to grow. The thyme sounds lovely - I hope it flourishes for you….

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    1. Plants in paving cracks looked fab at Great Dixter last year. Judging by my patio, I suspect a lot of time is spent in editing so that it looks effortlessly good. I was surprised how much I liked the neat gravel and paving too.

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  2. There's so much to be inspired with from our trip to Portland. Looking forward to the changes you'll be making and which bits of that trip you have incorporated. Loving the thyme idea!

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    1. It may move location when it gets done - have spotted another suitable place!

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  3. One advantage of looking where I step is that I'm often inspired to take pictures of paving (another is finding money on the ground). I also liked that "woolly" path between the two gardens, but I'd need more Portlandy weather to be able to achieve it. Ideas to file away!

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    1. Luckily the Portland weather is similar to here, so I can thoroughly steal the inspiration :) Looking forward to seeing the Toronto spin on what you saw!

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  4. I liked the uses of gravel, too; it makes an effective weed barrier yet a nice contrast to the paving. I love the bottle pavings at Bella Madrona! Not being much of a wine drinker, though, I'd have to enlist friends for help with the supplies:)

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    1. Rose - I'd need some help too, hence an idea to file away for later ;)

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  5. Lovely photos, so many nice plant combinations and the forest grass spilling onto the paving is something I can do in my garden. I am crazy about gray gravel and want it for paths in my garden, but haven't figured out how to deal with the autumn leaves!

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    1. You probably didn't spot the forest grass in the pot in my garden's photo as it's only been planted out this spring. I'm using it quite a bit now - it was my plant of the Seattle Fling :)

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  6. It's interesting how we all took away something different from the gardens we visited. Moss grows on my patio, too, but always fries in the summer. I was so excited, made changes to my garden the first week I was back. I think the thyme will be wonderful between your pavers. You have to love anything that smells good, attracts bees, and doesn't mind being stepped on. :o)

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    1. The birds love the moss in my patio - it gets dug up in the spring for nesting :) My changes will be slower than yours, but I'm looking forward to doing them :)

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  7. What a lovely post, there are some beautiful patios there. I like to let the moss grow on mine too, but not the weeds so much, it's a tricky balance! I'd like to take up the odd paving stone as well and put some plants in, but I suspect it wouldn't work well with children.

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    1. I don't think it works that well with adults either! We do have a planting spot by next door's garage - that was our design compromise as there's no chance of tripping over it and I get to grow plants to help disguise the garage :)

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  8. Great post, VP, and what a coincidence I was writing a similar themed post yesterday too (basic & practical) but I typed on past midnight as per usual ;-)

    I would absolutely recommend using the black grass ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens in gravel. I originally had it in my front garden but it got a bit baked there. Having being moved to my partially shady back garden it I have a great looking clump now which is planted to guide hedgehog visitors (they follow edges I have observed) down to the area where my feeding station is. I have some in a border that have never really starred but after a small border change now they have a chance to be seen :-D

    Sorry, rambling here but I too love the approach at the Ernst Fuller garden you show too having been inspired to grow my black grass after seeing a similar planting at Chelsea many, many moons ago. I was also inspired to buy grey/blue pebbles (very few available at GC’s then) after seeing slate chippings mulching the black grass). I’ve lifted my pebbles and scattered these pebbles countless times and this summer they were on the move again ;-)

    As for bottles, I’ve seen them (in a friend’s garden) also used slightly out of the ground as a border edge. I do like that neat gravel edge in your photo too. I like patterns in contrast to straight lines and soft plants. I fear (based on my garden with bigger 20mm gravel) birds could scatter smaller stones like this searching for food but once the thyme gets established that should be less of a problem . I would be sooooo tempted to make a pebble/upside down clay pot mosaic somewhere - I’ve seen thyme growing in the rings :-)

    Looking forward to seeing your patio changes, small ones can make a big difference, I’ve been working along the same lines and all inspiration is great especially when it is being shared through the eyes of another gardener – THANK-YOU :-D

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    1. I'll be featuring mosaic another time Shirley, so keep your eyes peeled! I use thyme quite a bit in the front garden as an edging plant - so pleased to be using it again in a different way.

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  9. Good to meet you yesterday afternoon at the T & M plants and cake fest!
    It's a great feeling when you have been inspired by visits to other gardens, and translate it to your own. Camomile is always a nice one as it releases its scent when you walk on it. There is a tiny black leaved, lilac flowered viola which self seeds in my garden and fills many a void! I never bought it, don't know where it came from, but give thanks for it often.

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    1. Hi Jane, great to meet you too :-) I also have that Violet - it's in a pot and it's intersting to see where else it's popping up in the garden. I'm also using it in paving cracks and as an edger in the terrace beds - relocsted from all kinds of spots in the garden

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  10. For a while now I have been "planting" moss between the stones under our pergola, but the worms keep pushing it up so it´s not developing well. In the sunny part of the garden I have started planting creeping thyme and have plans for the low camomile next year. Filling some areas with gravel sounds like a really good idea. Do you have a name for the tiny Violet?

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    1. Hi Helen - it's Viola riviniana (Purpurea group) aka wood/dog violet. The label when I bought it said Viola labradorica, so it looks like it's been renamed. Be warned, the website I bought it from says it self seeds 'almost to a level that is invasive', so be prepared for a lot of editing if you invite it into your garden.

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  11. Money no object, I would go fir the bottle design at Bella Madtona. It looks like great fun and low maintenance . We have slabs with pea shingle and areas of gravel which are great seed (weed) beds.and it is difficult to remove the more energetic weeds. As for Vioka labradorica, it looks stunning in spring, seeds enthusiastically but is relatively easily to pull out and is one of those plants you will never be without again.
    Portland looks like it was fabulous.

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  12. Thanks for such an informative and enjoyable post VP. Looking forward to future Portland inspired posts. Off to crack open a bottle of wine :)

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