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Southern California Gardening: Soften Your Hardscapes

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Soften the hard edges of concrete, stone and brick with creeping groundcover and decomposed granite.

southern CA

Soft, hard. Straight, curved. Yin, yang. I love the contrasts of stone, decomposed granite, gravel, brick pathways, and beds laced by a frilled edging of plants or framed by the sculptural shapes of succulents or a well-trimmed hedge.

For wide, simple hardscapes, like the pathways and terraces surrounding my home, I planted large specimens in scale with their surroundings. Blowsy roses spill onto the unforgiving stone and soften it with their leaves and blossoms.

creeping thyme in southern california garden

Tucked into the cracks of the stonework surrounding our fountain are soft mounds of tiny creeping thyme that stand shoulder to shoulder with borders of senecio, crassula, aeonium and echeverias. The patio would be harsh and forbidding without the softness of the thyme and the sensual forms of those succulents.

Lavender spires in southern CA garden

Pathways of decomposed granite separate large beds edged by split ledge flagstone. Lavender spires of Nepeta 'Walker's Low' provide not only a softening gray-green border to the beds, but also blooms that are loved by butterflies and bees and shunned by marauding deer.

southern CA

In the tight quarters of my potager, I chose whimsical and tasty fraises des bois (alpine strawberries) for my borders. These tiny plants form small clumps instead of sending out runners, and provide red thimbles of berries for months.

Pour your concrete, set your stone but don't leave these elements naked. A well-dressed hardscape puts the finishing touches on your garden. Here are some tips to make it happen for you:

  • Plant in scale with your hardscape. Large spaces need large plants, and tiny spaces . . . well, you get the picture.
  • Practice 'tuck-away' gardening by planting tiny prostrate plants in cracks and crevices.
  • Select species that are drought tolerant and that can withstand the heat generated by stone. (Natives and herbs are great choices.)

Learn more about what to plant around hardscaped garden elements from my video.