There are not many plants that can be truly called a workhorse in a garden, yet many groundcovers are exactly that. Once established, they require no care, instead providing a large, weed-free mat of their vegetation and flowers. The choices available to a gardener are becoming unreal as well; plain or variegated leaf, bloom colour, small or large-leaved, sun or shade tolerant and drought tolerant. More plants are being asked to stretch their limits too, with water restrictions and colder zones being asked to survive winters in.
Large mass plantings of groundcovers planted in a border is quite striking, especially when placed in front of larger plants that become a backdrop for them. Complimentary colours carry their colour hues throughout the garden when planted in large groupings, rather than looking like small splatterings of colour here and there.
The only requirements they do need during the first season, are watering deeply once a week and removing any weeds. The poorest of soils are tolerated by many groundcovers, making our job even easier with our task in choosing the right varieties.
Here is only a small selection of the many varieties being offered to gardeners:
Creeping Jenny – As the name suggest, the stems of this plant creep along and root as it travels. Round, bright green leaves with a gold tone are produced in mid-spring, then summer brings a flush of lemon yellow flowers.
Myrtle – Dark green, glossy leaves are spaced well apart on vine-like stems, with four-petalled medium blue flowers appearing in early summer. The leaf nodes do produce roots that anchor the stem in place and starts a new plantlet, therefore being a very reliable spreader, yet still being controllable. It loves dappled shade, but will do well in full sun or full shade locations.
Sedum – This sun-loving perennial family are not fast spreading, but are so drought tolerant and endure a wide range of growing conditions that they are worthy of any spot in a garden. Various varieties provide small or large leaves and a variety of leaf colour, that any gardener’s tastes could be accommodated by this group.
Bugleflower – My favourite of all the various groundcovers I grow, this plant keeps trudging along with anything I throw at it. The blue or pink flower spikes appear in early summer above either green, purple or pink-tipped leaves. Even when not in bloom this groundcover still looks good through its foliage. Sending out runners that rest on the soil and start new plants makes this an easy plant to propogate. Once it is growing tight and compact, very little weed seeds will penetrate through.
Pinks – Not usually considered a groundcover, it has the same tendencies that groundcovers do. Large mats of foliage are grown out from the central plant, thus not allowing any weeds to grow. Taller flower stems that are suitable for cutting for bouquets are produced, giving an airy look when in bloom.
Campanula – Mounds of tiny leaves are seen on this plant, again not usually classified as a groundcover. Yet, when planted closely enough, the mounds blend with one another creating a solid mat. ‘Blue Chips’ is the name of a variety most commonly sold, with medium blue bells that look upward to the sky. A white variety is also available.
Snow-In-Summer – Grey leaves and white five-petalled flowers adorn this plant. Growing in full sun or part-shade, this plant is smothered in blooms at this time of year, thus truly living up to its name. An easy carefree plant needing very little attention even in its first season.
Arabis – Similar to Creeping Phlox and Snow-In-Summer in growth habits, this plant gets smothered in bright purple blooms in late spring. Other bloom colours are available, but nothing stand out like the bright purple on its fine foliage.
Sweet Woodruff – A very quick spreader, the bright green leaves are formed in rings up the main stem of this plant. Very small white flowers also appear at this time of year and last for quite a long time. This plant must be thought about before planting, as once it is planted it does take persistence to remove it again completely.
These are only a few of the many varieties offered by growers. Well-tilled soil, a small amount of fertilizer or compost and water are the only necessities to have great coverage of any area where grass isn’t wanted or where a very low maintenance flower garden is required.
by Jennifer Moore