By Annie Thornton, Houzz
Plants grown in the gaps between pavers and other hardscape elements provide gardens of all sizes with more green space, breaking up paved areas while also enhancing drainage. They also create an opportunity to introduce surprising new design elements, including flowers, bold color, and even fragrance. Take a look at five inspiring gardens that use their hardscape seams to grow something special.
Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz
When planting a walkway or outdoor steps, carefully consider plant choice and maintenance to avoid trips, falls, or other potential safety issues. Choose plants that are low-growing or be ready to trim plants when needed to keep the walkway clear. Keep paths that will be used at night well-lit.
1. Succulent steps. In Southern California, concrete steps lead visitors up to a secluded outdoor seating area and edible garden. An 8-foot-tall redwood and steel fence surrounds the garden, enhancing the feeling of privacy while also keeping grazing animals out.
This threshold, lush with sprawling vines, offers another planting surprise: colorful echeveria succulents growing in soil between the steps. These rosette-forming plants thrive in warm, dry, and sunny locations and will appreciate the concrete’s reflected heat.
Should the succulents develop offsets or tall stalks that impede foot traffic, simply cut and re-root the offsets or rosettes. New echeveria will sprout from the stock.
Wagner Hodgson, original photo on Houzz
2. Sedum sidewalk. Staggered bluestone pavers wind from the house down to the pool area of this weekend retreat in Hudson, New York. Massed grasses frame the path, softening the hardscape and filling in the path’s irregular edges.
The gaps between pavers also leave room for walkable ‘Dragon’s Blood’ stonecrop (Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’, Zones 3 to 9), a low-growing, spreading ground cover that thrives with little maintenance in shallow, rocky soils.
Howells Architecture + Design LLC, original photo on Houzz
3. Minty hint. The mostly paved backyard of a fiction writer in Portland, Oregon, takes many design cues from the nearby Portland Japanese Garden, including the pattern of its concrete pavers with planted joints. “In essence we paved the whole thing but softened it with these moss elements in between,” says Michael Howells, the project’s architect.
Howells Architecture + Design LLC, original photo on Houzz
Howells planted Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’, Zones 4 to 8) and Corsican mint (Mentha requienii, Zones 6 to 9) between the concrete pavers. Both plants handle foot traffic, grow to about 1 inch tall, and provide a cushy, bright green outline around the concrete pavers. The Corsican mint also emits a strong fragrance when it’s stepped on. “I have always wanted to do a project where I could introduce that idea of the sense of smell,” Howells says.
Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz
4. Planted perimeter. Landscape architect Craig Reynolds sought to balance the requests of the homeowners and the climate of Key West, while also creating privacy, softening the space, and complying with local regulations for impervious surfaces. So he designed this compact backyard with lots of Ipe decking and lush tropical plants.
While this corner of the yard feels almost like an outdoor room — all that’s missing is a roof — Reynolds made sure to leave a slight gap between the deck and fence for planting. “I didn’t want it to feel like you’re in a wooden box,” he says. Plants, including the Chinese banyan (Ficus microcarpa, Zones 9 to 11 ), will fill in, growing between the fence and the deck to soften the space and offer privacy.
June Scott Design, original photo on Houzz
5. Colorful complement. A home and its garden aren’t always designed with the other in mind, but it can be fun to see when they are. For this renovation project in Manhattan Beach, California, the homeowners did just that. The couple (one is an architect and the other is an interior designer) chose soft, botanical colors for their home’s exterior and worked with landscape architect June Scott to choose plants that would echo and complement these hues. “The plants lead the eye from the home to the garden and back again,” Scott says.
Here we see how silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae, Zones 9 to 11), a low-growing walkable ground cover planted between the poured concrete pavers, breaks up the paving while tying in with the home’s blue-green paint.
Also shown here: foxtail ferns (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’, Zones 9 to 11), blue chalk sticks (Senecio cylindricus, Zones 10 to 11), tree aeonium succulents (Aeonium arboreum, Zones 9 to 10), and leucadendron (Leucadendron ‘Jester’, Zones 9 to 10).
Exterior paint: Green Blue, Farrow & Ball; door and window trim paint: Meadow View, Benjamin Moore.
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