The town garden has many problem spots such as shady places below walls and under trees, where the soil is poor and root-ridden; wet spots and dry spots; and banks and slopes where grass will not grow. If neglected, these corners will soon become weed-infested. Ground-cover plants are therefore invaluable. The following are some of the more reliable and decorative varieties:

Arundinaria vagans (dwarf bamboo), 1-½ to 3 ft., very rapidly spreading, will tolerate shade. Plant in April or May.

Bergenia cordifolia (elephant ear), 9 in. Large heart-shaped leaves that remain dark green in winter; reddish flowers in March. Will flourish in sun or shade, and in almost any soil; successfully chokes all weeds. Plant in October or April.

Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley), creeping; fragrant, white, bell-shaped flowers in spring. Thrives in shade and moisture; spreads quickly once crowns are established. Fortin’s Giant is the best variety. Plant crowns in November, 3 in. deep and 6 in. apart.

Cotoneaster conspicua decora, prostrate ever-green ; small leaves; white flowers in June; red fruits last for most of winter. Grows vigorously; excellent for a low bank. Plant in October to February 3 ft. apart.

C. dammeri, prostrate, creeping ever-green; white flowers in June; coral fruit. Useful for banks or overhanging rocks. Plant in October to February 2 ft. apart.

C. horizontalis, deciduous; distinctive herring-bone branching that spreads horizontally and only slowly upward; pinkish flowers in May, bright red fruit, colourful leaves in autumn. Will thrive in quite inhospitable conditions, but likes sun. Plant in October to February.

Epimedium grandiflorum, 8 to 15 in. Leaves turn a rich bronze in autumn; white, yellow, deep rose or violet flowers from spring to summer. Excellent ground cover in either sunny or shady positions. Plant in October.

E. pinnalum, 8 to 15 in., has bright yellow flowers in summer. Makes excellent ground cover in either sunny or shady positions. Plant in October.

Euonymus radicals variegatus, 1 ft., creeping evergreen; small, toothed leaves edged with white; flowers insignificant, but attractive pink fruit. If set l ft. apart, the plants will soon knit together to form a dense carpet; hardy. Plant in October or March.

Galaxaphylla, 3 to 6 in; evergreen, perennial; shiny, heart-shaped leaves turn bronze in winter; white flowers in June. Likes moist, peaty soil, and shade; hardy. Plant in October to March.

Hedera helix (ivy), evergreen; lobed leaves; choose the small-leaved and variegated forms for ground cover. Very hardy. Plant in April.

Hosta (plantain lily), 1-1/2 to 2-½ ft.; perennial; luxuriant foliage; small flowers, usually lilac-coloured, from July to September; likes shade and moisture; hardy; will effectively smother all weeds. H. fortunei and H. sieboldiana are the best. Plant in October or March.

Hypericum calycinum (rose of Sharon), about l ft.; semi-evergreen; leathery leaves; yellow flowers from June to September. Very vigorous and hardy; will tolerate dry soil; clip in spring to keep in good condition. Plant in October to March.

Iberis sempervirens (candytuft), about 9 in.; evergreen; dense foliage; white flowers in spring and summer. Hardy and thrives in town conditions. Plant from March to May.

Lamium galeobdolon variegatum (variegated yellow archangel), l to 1-1/2 ft.; trailing perennial; slender, silvered leaves; yellow flowers in summer. Effective for ground cover under shrubs; likes shade and a light soil. Plant in October or March.

L. maculatum (dead nettle), 4 to 7 in.; perennial; green leaves with white stripe; insignificant purple flowers in summer. Will thrive in the most difficult places. Plant in October or March.

Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape), 3 to 4 ft., but can be kept low by clipping; evergreen; the shiny leaves turn orange in autumn; fragrant golden flowers in late winter and early spring. Will tolerate shade, drips from overhanging trees and indifferent soil. Plant in April.

Pachysandra terminalis, up to 1 ft.; ever-green; oval, toothed leaves; insignificant greenish-white flowers in April. Thrives in shade, even under trees. Plant in November to February.

Polygonatum multiflorum (Solomon’s seal), 2 to 4 ft. Elongated, curving leaves; pendulous white flowers in June; bluish-black fruit. Thrives in shade and any type of soil; excellent ground cover in a town garden. Plant in October or March.

Sarcococca humilis, 1 to 1-1/2 ft.; dwarf, tufted evergreen; glossy, pointed leaves; white, fragrant flowers from January to March; black fruit. Likes shade and a well-drained soil. Plant in April.

Tellima grandiflora, about 2 ft.; perennial; the heart-shaped leaves turn crimson in autumn; attractive greenish flowers from April to June. Hardy; grows slowly but thickly and does well under shrubs. Plant in October or March.

Vinca major and V. minor (periwinkle), prostrate, trailing perennial; ovate leaves; bluish-purple flowers in April and May. Excellent ground cover for banks and shady places; will tolerate all but the poorest soils. The variegated forms are attractive. Plant in April.

Ferns also make excellent ground cover, and are effective for leaf contrast as well. As long as the soil is reasonably moist, the following are reliable:

Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)

Dryopleris filix-mas (male fern)

Phyllitis scolopendrium (hart’s tongue fern)

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on SUGGESTED PLANTS FOR GROUND COVER


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