GETTING a gravel drive means you can break up the expanses of stone with tough little customers, like hardy succulents, or aromatic herbs like thyme.
It’s a plant that’s not just for the stuffing – it’s so hardy, it won’t mind being stood on now and then, even run over by the car once in a while. (Obviously, not continuously).
And when you do, it will release the most gorgeous fragrance.
I’ve started off my patch by planting up a corner where the new retaining wall meets the old.
I want the thymes (and succulents) to knit together around a gorgeous cobalt blue glazed shallow pot I treated myself to.
There’s only four varieties: EB Anderson and Doone Valley (both golden/green lemon-scented foliage, pink/mauve flowers); Silver Posie (silvery variegation, pink flowers); Golden Queen (green/yellow leaves, strong lemon scent, lavender flowers).
They’re all edible, crave the sun and sharp drainage (hence the gravel), and bees love them. As for the succulents, they’re not just for hot, dry regions.
These varieties are very hardy, as long as they’re in a free-draining site. If, like most of mine, you want to plant them in a pot, go for a shallow ceramic one, with plenty of drainage holes and mix a good amount of grit into the compost – they’ll rot if waterlogged.
First is the cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum), which spreads by forming new offsets alongside the original plant, hence its other common name, hens and chicks.
Sharing the same common name is Echeveria elegans, with blue-green curving rosettes, crowned by pink arching stems of yellow-tipped flowers. There’s also Echeveria glauca, similar but with a more silvery tinge to the foliage.
Lastly, there’s two of my favourites, creeping sedums, or stonecrops – Coral Reef (pink and green foliage, bright yellow flowers) and kamtschaticum variegatum (olive green/cream/pink foliage, deep yellow flowers).
All these plants take a lot of punishment. If you want something classy on your balcony, try these – but don’t kill them with kindness.