Crevice Gardens Add Interest and Save Water

— Written By and last updated by
Crevis Garden

Image by Hanna Smith
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Crevice Garden Guilford County

A crevice garden is a modified rock garden that mimics the gaps in natural rock formations to create crevices in which plants can grow. The stones in a crevice garden are stacked vertically on edge one behind the other instead of horizontally. The spacing creates crevices, and plants grow between the stones.

Often the plants are alpine, desert, or miniature species, as xeric landscaping principles are used to reduce the need for irrigation. The soil is modified to include a mix of topsoil, grit (perlite or gravel), compost, and/or sand to promote water retention when water is limited and drainage when water is plentiful.

Crevice gardens work in many different areas, from small, irregular-shaped spaces—like where the crevice garden at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Guilford County Center’s Demonstration Garden is placed—to larger areas like the crevice garden at the JC Raulston Arboretum. These gardens also provide an architecturally stunning addition to the landscape, with the different heights and textures of the stones mixed with plants that have different colors and textures.

To begin, look at the site where the garden will be installed and outline a rough shape to determine the length and width of the space so the stone size can be determined. Stone selection is an integral part of the design and will be a lasting feature in the garden, so choose wisely.

Flat stones work best, and colors can include reds, grays, and even hues that sparkle. Don’t forget to look at the edges as well because the peaks will add visual interest to the garden. To install the garden, dig trenches and set the stones in the surrounding natural soil. Large pieces can be supported by small rocks. Then pack clay around the pieces to provide support.

Next, add soil to the crevices. A soil mix of one part garden soil, one part mushroom compost, and one part perlite, sand, or PermaTill® is a common mixture that is used to promote drainage. Tuck small plants into the crevices, and place larger plants around the edges or in large openings. When selecting plants, note that most crevice gardens include plants that like full sun and thrive in well-drained soil and even drought. Also check for hardiness, texture, foliage, and bloom time and color, so that there is something interesting in the garden throughout the year. Succulents and herbs work great as do cold hardy cacti.

The overall effect is striking, with architectural interest from the stones, interesting textures, and beautiful blooms in a low-maintenance garden.

—Hanna Smith

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