Types of Ground Cover Plants and How to Plant Them
To appreciate the value of ground cover plants you must forget the over-groomed garden with its several square inches of weed-freeround every plant, and consider instead the ways of nature. In a meadow, every bit of soil is covered, yet there is a tremendous variety of plants. In lightly dappled copses or at the edges of dense forest, plants carpet the ground.
If ground cover plants are to be successful and play their part well, they must have a chance to become established without competing with weeds. Fortunately, there are now safe weedkillers which can be applied before planting or (and this I think is a more satisfactory method) you can apply mulches and composts as much as possible during the early days to prevent weeds colonising the area.
All ground cover plants can be planted within a few inches of the base of a shrub. After a time, they seem to snuggle up closer and this does not appear to have any bad effect. Where very young, and. Consequently small, shrubs are to be planted, these should be allowed to become established and really growing well before ground cover plants are planted quite close to them. Mulch the soil instead. When the time comes to plant the ground coverers, you. Might be able to divide those you have. You can propagate from them in readiness for future planting.
Among the many lovely plants that cover the ground with drifts of, we must include those which grow from bulbs.
Since bluebells, Endymion non-scriptus (sometimes still known as Scilla nutans) as a natural floral carpet, are so familiar to many of us, let us consider others of this tribe which can be introduced with such charming effect into our gardens.
Most like the wild bluebell in appearance is E. hispanicus of which there are blue, white and pink varieties, and now many hybrids in lovely soft hues. These flower at about the same time as the bluebell. Showing colour much earlier than these, are Scilla siberica, much dwarfer and with a divided corona, not a bell, and S. bifolia, similar but flowering earlier.
All these bulbs, and many others, do well so long as you let them grow undisturbed and allow them to seed freely. They may be bought by the dozen, hundred or thousand. How close you plant them will depend upon your pocket but, obviously, the more you can plant to begin with, the quicker the ground will become carpeted. It is possible, by planning, to grow a variety of plants from easily planted tubers, corms and bulbs so that one gets a succession offlowers from February (or earlier) to June.
The greatest asset of spring and autumnis their willingness to grow beneath trees or in other situations where there is little direct sunlight. You can plant Colchicum autumnalis (Meadow Saffron) which will grow even in dry soil. The lovely flowers, sometimes called “Naked Ladies” appear in autumn and are followed by large attractive leaves which cover the soil in spring and die down in June and July.
Eranthis hyemalis, the Winter Aconite, 3 or 4 inches tall, flowers from January to March, according to its situation or the season, and will grow quite happily with snowdrops. These bulbs should be planted in groups near each other so that the groups merge one into the other, rather than singly so that individuals are mixed together in one area.
Also belonging to the same family, the Ranunculaceae, are the Wind Flowers or anemones, one species of which, Anemone nemorosa, carpets our woodlands in spring and which can also be coaxed to grow in gardens. Others, for planting under trees and in partial shade, are A. appenina, and A. blanda, 6 inches, both in varied soft hues of blue, white and rose, blooming from February to April. All should be allowed to seed freely.
In our woods the white Wood Sorrel, Oxalis acetosella, said to be the true Shamrock, flowers in spring. There is also a variety, O.a. Rosea. This, too, can be used as ground cover in gardens, especially under high trees. (Another, O. corniculata, can be a troublesome weed). A species from Chile, O. adenophylla, is a pretty purple-rose.
Many people choose narcissi as ground cover plants, and these really do look beautiful growing in grass and under trees. An orchard with fruit trees in bloom andbelow the branches is a wonderful sight. The objection to the hybrid narcissi is that they tend to deteriorate after some years, and the clumps must be lifted and divided. After this the bulbs recover and begin producing flowers again. This deterioration does not appear to occur with the species.
Among some of the most delightful of the small narcissi is Narcissus cyclamineus. This species is supposed to prefer moist situations, yet you can see them growing on dry places also – bulbs planted in a dry place will not do well but seed will grow, and those flourishing on drier banks have been raised from seed.
There are other species, such as the tiny Hoop Petticoat Daffodil, N. bulbocodium which will grow prettily in natural surroundings, and so does our native wild daffodil, N. pseudo-narcissus.
are the easiest and most rewarding of all flowers to grow as ground cover plants. They will do well in any soil provided it is well drained. They will flower beautifully even in a brand new garden. Bulbs can be grown anywhere in the garden, in beds by themselves or mixed with a shorter growing flower, such as tulips towering above forget-me-nots; in parts of borders, along edges, among shrubs, on rockeries, naturalised in orchards and woodland, on lawns and between stones or in tubs or window boxes. Spring flowering bulbs do not need full sun.
It is advisable to lighten heavy soils with peat or well rotted leafmould forked in. A little bonemeal, 3 to 4 ozs. a square yard is also beneficial. Plant the bulbs before frost hardens the ground. The planting period for spring flowering bulbs usually extends from 1st September to 15th December, but daffodils and all other narcissi, should be planted before the end of October. All bulbs should be planted pointed end up, 5 to 6 inches deep for daffodils, tulips and hyacinths; 3 to 4 inches deep for crocuses, muscari and most other small bulbs. Variation in depth depends on the height of the stem and ‘on the type of soil — the longer the stem and the lighter the soil, the deeper the planting.