No mulch, no soil: tapestry plantings

I have become increasingly drawn to tapestry plantings.  You know, the ones that rely on a carpet of green or combinations of colours to cover empty ground.


This planting uses a combination of hot-coloured marigolds and mini zinnias to make a vibrant strip garden between two entrance walkways.  I think the effect is improved with the use of several boulders which makes the design seem more random, even natural, and less regimented.


In contrast, this planting combines ground cover sedums, two varieties of prostrate juniper, along with a volunteer — some Virginia creeper at the front right.

Whether annuals or perennials are chosen, this kind of carpet planting provides a relatively low-maintenance solution to smaller spaces.  It ensures the soil is kept shaded, therefore moist, and weeds are kept at bay.


Combining two plants that wouldn’t normally be given the same conditions makes for an unusual display.  Here, Hosta albo marginata (a shade lover) is paired with Sedum spectabile (a sun lover) creating a striking contrast between the hosta’s relaxed cream-edged leaves with the erect broccoli-like inflorescence of the sedum.

May 2011 - 3 023

Hostas are more commonly paired with other shade lovers like Corydalis and Thalictrum in my own shady garden.  But I have snuck in a Thuja occidentalis ‘Sunkist’ at the rear.


This garden is intensively planted with no soil (or mulch) visible anywhere.  Hostas, hydrangea, stephanandra and daylilies all play together making a lush and interesting display.

Longwood 381

The trick to intermingling plants is contrasting form and texture, not simply colour.  Here in an interior planting at Longwood Garden, Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ is mixed with a finely textured artemisia.  The effect is heightened with the addition of asparagus fern and the erect blades of cordyline cutting through the fluff.  A punch of colour comes from the croton.  Of course this combination uses a mix of tender plants, but nevertheless the lesson is germaine to other plants as well.

Chanticleer 164

Sometimes the best effect is the simplest.

This is a quintessential vignette from Chanticleer, near Philadelphia.

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