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If I were to name one plant that no northern New Mexico garden should be without, it would be creeping thyme.

A dainty, mat-forming relative of culinary thyme, creeping thyme comes in a delightful array of leaf and flower colors. It naturally spreads to cover the ground, filling in between flagstones, and eventually creating a beautiful green lawn that never needs mowing and is soft to walk on barefoot.

Once established, it is requires virtually no watering and helps control weeds and keep the soil cool and moist beneath. It is available as small plugs from most garden centers. The first year, it grows gradually, but the second year it comes into its own, forming large, thick patches that continue to expand.

I use it in my garden paths, and as a ground cover between other plants. Although it spreads eagerly, it is easily removed from areas where it is not wanted (you can simply cut off a portion of the mat with a trowel and transplant it to a better location); it does not come back from the roots like grasses and more aggressive ground covers do.

Although a thyme lawn can not hold up under really heavy wear (like playing sports, or trampling all day long), it is perfectly durable under light foot traffic. Like kitchen thyme, it is aromatic, and releases a pleasant spicy fragrance when touched or broken. It blooms in the spring, with each kind having a slightly different blooming season. Flowers range from pure white, through pink and lavender to purple, and even to crimson red.

In the arid climate of New Mexico, there are few plants that remain green and attractive from earliest spring to winter, without extra water or other type of attention. Creeping thyme is an excellent match for our climate, and helps create the kind of garden that takes care of itself, evolving naturally with the passing years and seasons. It is a valued helper in creating that established, natural look that I so enjoy in my outdoor spaces.

If you create an outdoor labyrinth or sacred circle for meditation or healing, consider creeping thyme for the pathways, especially if the labyrinth pattern is made of natural rocks. The thyme lends its own gentle, living energy to the space, and encourages bare feet and slow, gentle movements.

I plant creeping thyme wherever I live, and I know it thrives and continues to share its beauty after I am gone.



In the Garden is a regular feature of Starweaver's Gems from Earth and Sky

Copyright © 2008 Tom Waters