By Ann McCormick
This spring is the ideal time to create a thyme patchwork garden at your home. You needn’t devote a large space for this. A 3 foot by 3 foot square is all you need. Just take a yardstick, some twine, and 16 popsicle sticks into the garden. Mark out nine one-foot squares and tie string between the sticks at each corner. Then plant a different thyme in each square.
All thymes are small evergreen perennials with spikes of pink, purple, or white flowers.They are well behaved, growing to about a foot tall. Here’s a rundown on some of the varieties to grow in your thyme garden.
- Common or French Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – This is the thyme of the kitchen garden.. One attractive cultivar to include in hanging baskets is Silver Thyme (Thymus vulgaris Argenteus). Another recent introduction is Lime Thyme with you guessed it bright lime leaves.
- Wild or Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox subsp. arcticus) – This is a low growing thyme also known as red creeping thyme. The flowers are purple to mauve. Commonly sold cultivars include Doone Valley, Pink Chintz, and Highland Cream.
- Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) This is a spreading thyme reaching a foot tall with tiny egg-shaped leaves. Lemon thyme is one of the best for cooking and one of the most beautiful and fragrant in the garden. Watch for variegated cultivars such as Aureus (golden edged), Golden King (mostly gold), and Silver Queen (cream to light yellow edged).
- Caraway Thyme (Thymus herba-barona) – This thyme grows 2-5 inches tall with bright pink flowers. Caraway thyme can take higher levels of humidity and rain than other thymes, making it a good candidate for Gulf Coast gardens.
- Wooly Thyme (Thymus lanuginosus) – A prostrate herb, growing to only an inch high. It has fuzzy green leaves with rose colored flowers. It’s good for stone paths and rock gardens. Wooly thyme may die in wet winter.
Thyme is happiest with lots of sunshine and well-drained, almost gravelly, soil. If planted in a too-wet area the roots may rot. It needs regular watering during its first year but can withstand drought conditions once established. Thyme is a modest herb that spreads slowly. Regular pruning in spring and fall maintains the plants health as it reduces the amount of less productive old wood. Thyme plants with an excess of old wood are less likely to survive winter.