By Penny Woodward

Pink flowered ground cover thyme

Cretan thyme

Cretan thyme (Thymus longicaulis subsp. chaubardii) and other ground cover thymes will grow from sub-tropical to cold temperate regions. They need full sun and very well drained soil. Ground cover thymes are very useful to cover bare patches, while providing little competition for nearby plants. They are also wonderful for attracting bees, so plant them near fruit trees and vegetables that need bees for pollination.

Lovely pink flowered thymeCretan thymeThymes do not like to be wet, so grow them on well-drained soil in a sunny position. If your soil stays damp, try spreading a layer of scoria or pebbles over the surface, so that the thyme stems spread over and sit on this rather than the damp soil, and nudge their roots to the soil below. Or grow them in pots. There are many different cultivars and varieties of these lovely old-fashioned thymes, but one of the toughest and most drought tolerant I have grown is T. longicaulis subsp. chaubardii. This delightful Cretan native thyme has glossy green leaves and soft rose pink flowers and grows to only about 2cm tall. It needs no special care. Just plant it and forget it, until it comes into flower in early spring to early summer, when it is a joy. I planted one small pot two years ago and it has now spread over about two square metres. Unlike some ground cover thymes, which have no scent, this one has undertones of lavender while also being savory and slightly lemony. You can get mail order plants from Lambley where they grow it in a swathe and allow bulbs to grow up through it. I’ve just checked the website and they don’t have plants at present, but sign up for their great catalogues and I’m sure they’ll have it soon.