Plants that work well in narrow borders
August 24, 2019 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I have a very narrow strip between a small wall and my paved patio that the previous people filled with sand and then decorative pebbles. It is constantly sprouting weeds. There is proper soil underneath the sand. Can I plant it with something deliberately to keep the weeds out? What would that something be?

The things that grow there at the moment are mainly dandelions, clover, grasses, and a few other things I can't identify. I'd like something that won't grow taller than about 30-40cm. Not too bushy. A crawling/scrambling thing that spreads over the tiles could be okay, maybe. It doesn't have to flower, although that could be nice. It should handle extreme heat and not need too much watering. Most of it has partial shade for a lot of the day, but some areas are in full sun. I don't mind planting different things in different parts. It doesn't have to be frost tolerant.

It should be available in Australia at most gardening centres and either very cheap, or easy to propagate, as this area is very long (it borders most of my back yard).

I figured planting the area would be good because I'm trying not to use weedkilling sprays anymore, and apparently I'm too lazy to keep up with weeding this bit by hand or pouring boiling water on the area regularly enough to keep it under control.

The other option I considered was pulling up the decorative stones and pouring concrete into the gap, then putting them back on top. But I'd rather just plant it if possible.
posted by lollusc to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be pretty enough if it were all clover? It blooms, you could put in a short species, you know it survives there...

At the other end of ambition, a step -over espalier of something that would use the heat to ripen fruit.
posted by clew at 9:09 PM on August 24, 2019

Maybe pig face succulent? It will cope well with the conditions, originally from South Africa, but there is also an Australian native version. Comes in different versions of flowers (many colours and sizes from tiny to large) and foliage (finer or chunkier). Some varieties are more trailing and others are taller, but it would certainly sit under your height requirement. As it spreads over the bed, it would remove the need for regular weeding. I see it used in similar circumstances to yours in my area, e.g. in narrow beds, perhaps with some trailing, or as a ground cover.

Widely available (e.g. Bunnings) and as a succulent, you could start with a few and propagate to fill the space. If you look around online, you can also find some of the nurseries who sell in bulk cheaply online (e.g. Garden Express has the native version in 50mm pots for $4.60 each if you buy 10).
posted by AnnaRat at 9:28 PM on August 24, 2019

Allysum comes in several colors, grows quickly from seed (in the US, you can also buy starter plants), and self-seeds (i.e., comes back every year). Fairly dense, so great for keeping out weeds.
posted by she's not there at 9:54 PM on August 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would go for a saxifrage - minimal care, never grows tall, crowds out weeds, nice little flowers. You need the right one, and I don’t know what is available in your area, but there is this or this, for example.
posted by Segundus at 12:55 AM on August 25, 2019

Great ideas! I'm going to try alyssum first because I can sprinkle some seeds straight into the space and see what happens without spending much money at all. If that fails, pig face is a great idea too.
posted by lollusc at 3:11 AM on August 25, 2019

Maybe check out Moses in the cradle? It spreads easily by itself. I have some in full light and partial sun as a border around the pool and it’s doing well. It’s very pretty too.
posted by Jubey at 5:02 AM on August 25, 2019

The classical Australian choice for a space like this, though I'm not crazy about them, is agapanthus.

Clivias are similar, but nicer I think. Both are resurprisingly water wise, and the dense habitat will crowd out weeds. If you know anyone with some they'll probably let you dig out a bunch for free.

Mint is another popular choice, though it does need more water.

You could consider drawf sacred bamboo (not actually bamboo).

Westringia could work. But I find like most natives without grooming it can get a bit straggly. It also only lives for about four years. Another native to consider is dwarf leptospermum. I quite like dianellas, much more than lomandras for this kind of space. Native irises could also work but you'll need a few.
posted by smoke at 3:01 PM on August 25, 2019

Came here to say Clivias too - they grow in most conditions (except maybe full sun) and gives you pretty awesome flowers a few times a year even if you give it zero water. Sometimes people offer them (and agapanthas) for free on gumtree if you dig them up. they transplant well.

Looks like you are in Sydney - if you want to pick them up you are welcome to some cuttings of a native pig face. It's going crazy in a partial sun position in my garden. I watered it until established, but hardly ever now. Alternatively take a sample or two from some public plantings - there are heaps in the Rhodes/Meadowbank/Ermington riverside parks.
posted by trialex at 4:58 PM on August 25, 2019

Smoke, all of those are too tall. The wall is only about 40-50 cm high and I don't want the plant in front to grow taller as it will shade the strawberries in the raised bed on top. (Plus people do like to sit on the wall sometimes). They are definitely things that are on my list to plant elsewhere in the garden though, thanks.

Trialex thanks for the offer! I'm going to try the alyssum first, I think, but I'll definitely hit you up for some pigface cuttings later if it doesn't work out.
posted by lollusc at 6:04 AM on August 26, 2019

Hmm, that's certainly true for the irises and agapanthus, but some dianella varieties are well under that height, I have them in my yard. Are you sure you're looking at dwarf varieties? Dwarf sacred bamboo is lucky to get to 30cm and so are the dwarf westringias. I have the dwarf sacred bamboo in my front yard in an even smaller space.

Lots of sun and very low can be challenging unless you're talking real ground cover territory.

Bunnings et all have low "ornamental" chilli's that could work. There are also a number of creeping grievelleas, but I find them a little slow to grow.

Mondo grass could also work well, you can get it in a variety of heights, again can be a little slow to take off. It can also handle getting lightly trod on.
posted by smoke at 1:43 PM on August 26, 2019

Ooh oh, it wouldn't work at all for the full sun areas, but I just adore native violets. They are gorgeous, lower than grass, beautiful little flowers.
posted by smoke at 4:24 AM on August 27, 2019

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