Here’s a few recommendations for plants for a gravel bed or a stone trough. They are in flower with me now on June 1st – but will no doubt be earlier further south.
1) Ranunculus gramineusGiven my daily struggles with buttercups, I’m reluctant to regard them as anything but a weed. However, this is a beauty, with glaucous foliage and a nice stately habit and not in the least invasive. Although it is a plant from southern Europe, it’s hardy with me – although it has the worrying habit of completely dying back once it has flowered. It can be divided at that stage, and comes away again reliably. This description from The Botanical Magazine; Or, Flower-Garden Displayed by William Curtis (1794) does it full justice:
This species of Ranunculus, an inhabitant of the dry pastures South of France and Italy, and a hardy herbaceous plant of ready growth, recommends itself by the earliness of its flowering and the delicate glaucous colour of its foliage. Parkinson figures it with double flowers, though he describes it with semi-double ones only; we have not observed either of these varieties in the gardens about London, they have most probably fallen victims to the rage for novelty, at the shrine of which many a fair and goodly flower is yearly sacrificed.It flowers towards the end of April, and is propagated by parting its roots in autumn.
5) Anonymous (Edit: mystery solved – it’s erinus alpinus)I was sold this plant as acinos alpinus - which it most certainly isn’t. Does anyone recognise it? Whatever it is, it seeds itself everywhere into cracks in walls and paving, where it flourishes rather better than in the scree, and looks great. Hardy, no maintenance. I’d love to know what it is. Anyone who wants a few seed heads, e-mail me.