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As cooking herb, as ground cover...thyme choices.

As cooking herb, as ground cover . . . thyme choices

Abundant choices in thyme include the traditional upright-growing herbs used in cooking as well as low-growing kinds that make excellent ground covers. Particularly obliging, thyme can thrive under less than ideal conditions. Once established, it does well even in poor sandy soils and can get by with only moderate watering. It does best in fast-draining soil in full sun or partial shade.

You can put out plants now if you provide light shade while they're getting established and if you don't let them dry out severely. In hot-summer areas, hold off planting until fall.

Ground cover thymes

For a ground-hugging ornamental in small areas, try one of the following varieties. All tolerate light traffic and produce tiny flowers from spring to fall. They create a low mat about 2 to 3 inches high. Plant 6 to 12 inches apart. The closer spacing is best since thyme grows slowly.

Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) has stems densely packed with tiny gray-green fuzzy leaves (1/8 inch long). It rarely shows its pale pink blooms. Of similar density and size, but with abundant white flowers and bright green, almost smooth leaves, is white moss thyme (T. pulegioides "Alba'). Coconut thyme (T. pulegioides "Coccineus') has tiny dark green leaves and purple-pink blooms.

Creeping thyme or mother-of-thyme (T. praecox arcticus), sometimes sold as T. serpyllum or T. drucei, has pink blooms and slightly larger rounded leaves (1/4 inch long). It forms a low mat that's aromatic when brushed. The 2- to 6-inch-tall stems drop down as the plant grows.

Herbal thymes

For use in cooking, try the classic English or common thyme (T. vulgaris). It is also available in a white-variegated form sold as silver thyme, T. vulgaris "Argenteus'. For a lemon scent, try lemon thyme (T. citriodorus) or one of its variegated forms, "Aureus' (with yellow edging) and "Argenteus' (white edging).

Buying thyme by mail

If you can't find the variety you want at a nursery, order by mail from Fox Hill Farm (444 W. Michigan Ave., Box 7, Parma, Mich. 49269; catalog $1) or Taylor's Herb Gardens, Inc. (1535 Lone Oak Rd., Vista, Calif. 92083; $1).

Photo: Variegated lemon thyme has yellow-edged green leaves and lemon scent

Photo: Wooly thyme forms cushiony ground cover between sidewalk and rock retaining wall

Photo: White moss thyme softens paving of steps with compact foliage and white blooms
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1986
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