Garden Designers Roundtable focus on detail: Cracks, crannies, crevices and clefts…..

| September 25, 2012 | 7 Comments

…..Ooh, and nooks and niches natch!

You get asked to design-in all sorts of landscape detail in our game:


Tennis courts


Mounds to use up builders spoil

Greek temples – well only one of those actually

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  Well almost…..

We are certainly calling them ‘The Hanging Gardens of Stroud’…..

(Variety and challenges are just two of joys of being a garden designer!)

So when someone recently asked us to ensure that there were cracks in the paving and they were planted up, that was a piece of the proverbial!

Don’t worry we weren’t being asked to smash slabs of  reassuringly expensive, silk smooth, Portuguese limestone. More likely leaving unmortared joints between substantial slabs of the local, roughly textured, Pennant sandstone paving.

But why would anyone even think of this? No one had ever actually specified it before.

Very often with such requests you are dealing with something that people have known in their childhood, seen on holiday or just means something quite special to them.

In this case it was associated with the garden of the old family country house of their childhood, where thymes and violas had seeded themselves into the cracks in paving.  These gradually materialize with ground movements over the passage of time as properties age. And although the client had grown up and was living in a smart town house in Clifton they wanted to recreate that element. And what the client wants the client gets.

But plants beneath your feet?

Well, there are landscape benefits to this.

They do soften and ‘casual up’ expanses of hardlandscape. They also add atmosphere and sensuality. It is a different texture visually and also to touch in a podiatric sense.

Choose carefully, tread carelessly and they can also release delicious aromas. I still remember the delights of walking barefoot on dewy thyme and mints in Tuscany 35 years ago – glass of rough red wine in hand for my breakfast – oh those student days!

Certainly the look is more likely to be informal, but large it up a bit

and your pavement detail can become a whole new crevicefest:

This Chelsea show garden certainly rocked its cracks!

And elegant pavement detail:

is one of the trademarks of Mr Robert Myers, a designer whom we greatly admire:

There is of course another deadly practical side –  if you don’t fill your cracks with little treasures Dame Nature surely will and that means weeds right? Grrrrrrh!

But it is one thing for cracks to materialize and quite another for them to be put there deliberately.

The health and safety police, all too pervasive this side of the pond, would have a field day!

So common sense suggests that they are placed mainly off likely direct routes and away from dining areas. And we are talking cracks, not enough space to lose the family silver in.

What to plant? Well, of course choices will relate to growing conditions.

The Royal Horticultural Society and a book by Nichola Ferguson called ‘Right Plant Right Place’ list all sorts of things which I would not consider.

Acaenas? What about all those burrs on your shoe laces?

Finicky little alpines, well I’d think carefully. You’d be wanting toughies here!

But neither would I release any devils! Think Helxine! Eek!

Our favourites?

Of course Thymes are a given.

Erinus alpinus, the straight species not Dr. Wotsit

Erodiums for sure

Erigeron karvinskianus – well, that’s Lesley’s fave

Leptonella ‘Platts Black’ – that’s mine

Geranium subcaulescens

Mentha requiennii

Viola labradorica

White flowered toadflax

Of course we could dream up hundreds more, but that’s what flew into our minds as Lesley and I poured the first red of the evening. Once a student always a student. The hours get a trifle more sedate, but the red gets smoother!

So beetle off down to the local garden centre next week end, grab some stuff and stuff your cracks!

Robert and Lesley

If garden designers are any good at all at their job. Attention to detail is vital. It goes without saying that all our esteemed American cousins are not just good, but excellent at their job. Go check them out:

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Category: Design Bites, Now YOU Have A Go!, The Planty Stuff

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  1. Your take on this topic is simply masterful. Those steps in the first shot truly speak to me!!!!

  2. While all your photos are lovely, I have to agree with Christina that the steps in the first one are a favorite. I’m always amazed at how quickly a few tiny little plants can really make a garden come alive. BTW Leptonella ‘Platts Black’ is one of my favorites, too.

  3. Robert says:

    Hi Christina!
    Yes that shot is good.
    Think the plant is a tiny little ophiopogon.
    Thanks so much for your encouraging comment.

  4. Robert says:

    Hi Debbie!
    We are kindred spirits then re Platts Black.
    Such a good detail plant I think.
    Agree that plants can really sing a song.
    Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Robert,

    Thank you! Our landscape designers love using dwarf mondo grass and succulents to fill in gaps between hardscaping but I have never seen some of the plants you are using in any of our designs – of course the climate is a little bit different here in Texas…but if nothing else you have given us some great ideas for different textures and designs. I especially love the design by Robert Myers you’ve included, it’s not at all intrusive but adds a contemporary flare to an otherwise monochromatic hardscape.

  6. Robert says:

    Hi Christina!
    I have been having computer problems, hence my slow reply to your comment.
    Yes Robert Myers is one of our favourite designers.
    And it is always a great joy when he shows at Chelsea.
    Thanks so much for your supportive comments.

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