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Thymes for Fairy Gardens, Garden Railroads and Other Miniature Scenes

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Thymus serpyllum 'Minor'
Creeping form of Thyme, Thymus serpyllum 'Minor' useful for groundcover for miniature gardens.

Photo of Thymus serpyllum 'Minor' sometimes sold as Thymus 'Elfin' a prostrate creeping form of Thyme useful for containers, garden railroad layouts and fairy gardens.

Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Thymus serpyllum 'Minor' and Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin' are both tiny leaved, ground cover thymes, useful as herbs and groundcovers. 'Minor' is often sold incorrectly as 'Elfin' and sometimes incorrectly labelled as Thymus praecox 'Elfin'. Both are very slow growing evergreen ground covers, which can be grown from zones 5 to 10 and will withstand temperatures down to -28˚C or -20˚F . Their rounded leaves overlap each other like scales for a ground hugging cover. 'Minor' tends to be mat forming, with small hummocks in shadier areas, while 'Elfin' forms small domes.

Thymus serpyllum 'Minor' - The plant is very successful grown between pavers or over rocks. It prefers poorly fertilized, well drained soil and is drought tolerant once established. If given 5 hours of sunlight a day it will remain very flat. Less sunlight and it will form small mounds. The plant must be grown in well drained soils. In hotter areas it may require partial shade to thrive.

This groundcover thyme tolerates light treading , but does not tolerate wet or waterlogged soils. It can be grown in containers if soil and water conditions are correct. Most problems with Thymes are caused by excess water around the crown of the plant (where the plant meets the soil), especially during colder months when soils do not dry out.

Flowers - early to mid summer with tiny lavender pink flowers.

Height - 1/2 to 2 inches (1 – 5 cm) spread 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm.)

Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin' – is best grown in a pot or trough due to its slow growth and tiny size. It generally forms small domes a few inches across, but is otherwise similar to 'Minor' with very short stem spaces between leaves. 'Elfin' is best grown in containers or troughs where its tiny dome shaped growths can be featured. The true form of 'Elfin' is rarely seen for sale.

Accurate photos of both can be seen in the Plant Portraits section of the Thymus Website by clicking on the plant names. The Thymus Website is maintained by Mrs. Margaret Easter, the International Cultivar Registration Authority for Thymus.

Uses for Miniature Gardens - Thymus serpyllum 'Minor' makes a dense groundcover mat, less than 1/4 inch thick under most conditions. It will cascade over rocks and its flat low growth makes it a good base on which to arrange figures and small scenes. It can be grown in containers (use well drained, sandy soil, rather than standard water holding potting mixes) and it can be grown as a groundcover or allowed cascade over rocks in small troughs which can be placed up against dolls houses and other miniature structures. If it is provided with sufficient light, it can be successfully grown indoors, although it does best in sunny outdoor conditions.

Note: - Thyme is attractive to bees when in flower, so take care it is not used extensively where children will be playing, unless the children are used to being near bees. Although 'Minor' and 'Efin' are very slow growing varieties, their leaves can be used for seasoning the same way regular thyme is used. For herbal uses, thyme produces more oil and better flavor if grown on poor soils in full sun.

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