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Planting the pathway edge for pollinators. Ideas?

 
Posts: 39
Location: Central Virginia, USA
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I have a steep slope with a set of brick steps I installed heading to a pergola planted with Hardy kiwi.  I want to plant the edge with something perennial that will serve as a slope stabilizer, beautifier, and pollinator attractant.  It could also produce food and or build soil.

This plant must Not be:
Overly aggressive/invasive
Heavy feeder stripping soil nutrients
Tall shading other plants, or leaning too far into pathway.
Likely to disrupt the path with roots.

Any ideas on things that could grow here and meet the goals I have?  Thanks everyone!


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Brick steps/path
 
pollinator
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Comfrey would be one plant I would use, although it will get pretty tall if you don't cut it.  It does a great job of building soil, and if you don't have to cut it, the bumblebees LOVE the flowers.  It isn't invasive, but will spread if you chop the roots up.  the roots grow down much more than they spread, so that should cause a problem for you.  You would need to keep it back from the edge of the path 3 feet or so to keep it from hanging over the path, or keep cutting the plants for chop and drop that are near the path.

Mint is another plant I use a lot, but it is invasive, so it may not help you.
 
gardener
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It looks like you could plant a wide variety of flowering perennials and shrubs, since you're not primarily looking for food production there. You could check out other gardens in your area to see what you like, and plant one of each, leaving some space so you can fill in gaps later with the things you liked or that did well.
 
gardener
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This actually reminds me that I need to divide the yarrow that I'm cultivating as edging for garden bed in the back. I'm going to try to do the same with garlic chives in the front. Based on their growth patterns in my garden; lemon thyme, oregano, and winter savory would also make good edging plants. I've seen many bees and some butterflies on all of these during their flowering season.
 
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Crimson clover! Definitely a big pollinator attractant and a great nitrogen fixer. Not perennial, but they'll self-seed, so it's just as good.

Some of my other favorite insectary plants: scarlet trumpet, nicotiana, yarrow, and bee balm (though bee balm gets fairly tall, so maybe not here...)
 
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Sweet Alyssum is a lovely, low-growing, pollinator-attracting edge plant that smells glorious and the bees, butterflies and other pollinators love it. It is an annual, but happily self-seeds. You can cut it back after it's first flush of flowers begin to fade, and it will put out more flowers. At the end of the season, let some of them go to seed and you'll have next years crop!

I love it. I comes in white, purple and yellow I think. And if it flops down onto the path, that's okay - it will release it's sweet smell when you brush past it or step on it. It's pretty rugged. And it's used as a companion plant with many veggies. Definitely a good one to have in the mix.
 
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Creeping thyme would be lovely there.  I have not grown it so I have no experience and have heard it is hard to grow from seed but is available at nurseries.  It could be grown between your bricks and along the edges then use sweet alyssum and others on the outer edges.

I loved the sweet alyssum but made the mistake of letting it grow too tall [I thought it was lovely] but DH pulled it up instead of cutting it back so his milkweed could get more sun.  It also helped hold moisture.
 
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That is a beautiful walkway!! Well done.

A plant I've really grown to enjoy is Emerald Carpet Raspberry.  It will stay low to the ground but forms a pretty thick cover so there are not a lot of weed issues.  You would need to edge your walkway once a year though.  It's evergreen, occasionally produces berries, doesn't mind being stepped on, and handles shade well.  It re-roots as it grows so if you buy a few plants, they are pretty effortless to propagate once they get going.  I've planted it under some of my fruit trees and it's been the best ground cover I've worked with.  The root system is not very aggressive or deep.  Given my experience, I'm surprised I don't see it referenced more often.  
 
pollinator
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I don't know the etiquette for reviving old threads here on permies but, as it seems to have been resurrected already I'll add my 0.02!

In the UK it is common to line walkways with lavender and/or rosemary. Both are drought-hardy, relatively frost-hardy and smell beautiful when brushed against. Lavender in particular is a favourite of bees and other pollinators as it has such a long flowering season. To boot, both of these plants are edible herbs (and you could add sage, oregano and thyme into the mix to bolster this!).
 
gardener
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I don't know the etiquette for reviving old threads here on permies, but...



Me either! But I'd love to see an update.
 
Peter Daub
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lol, I saw after posting how old it was.  It was linked in the dailish email - so there is the excuse
 
Anne Miller
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Threads on permies are considered perennial so replying to one is great especially if you can add additional information.

This year I have a new native plant that would make great paths.  It has a very small blue flower which I believe to be Blue Pimpernel, Anagallis Monellii.  
 
gardener
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Your walk way is beautiful. I wonder what you planted? I would love to see what you went with.  I would have suggested roman chamomile. It makes a pretty ground cover.
 
master pollinator
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Diego, could we have a photo to see how the walkway is looking now, four years later. Your initial build is so impressive!
 
pollinator
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Diego, I vote for violets. They are edible (flowers and leaves), they host fritillary butterflies, and they are also very attractive, with green, heart-shaped leaves and white or purple flowers. I bet there's one that is native to your area there in VA. When we sheet-mulched over our turf, we got wild violets instead, and they are so much prettier than grass, plus no mowing!
 
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And parsley.  It's biennial, and once established it reseeds.  The bloom is a great one for beneficial insects.  If you plant it two years in a row, then you'll have flowers every year.  Also, if you have been planting primarily perennials, you may still have room in between them.  Cilantro makes small insect friendly flowers, as does dill. They will get crowded out as the perennials take up more and more room.  
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