NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR APRIL 26, 2008
THOSE CREEPING ONES
BY GLADYS JEURINK
So how can you
use a ground cover? They mean different things to different people. For
some it is to keep weeds from growing, for others something to take care
of hard to mow places like slopes, for many just to prevent soil
erosion. Usually thought of
as low, creeping and spreading, but others consider anything that covers
the ground area with leaves, and they may have a taller structure.
There are many for sun or shade, for wet or dry soil, for acid or
alkaline pH soil. Some have showy blooms and others have hidden ones,
such as wild ginger with its little brown blooms hugging the ground.
You won’t see them unless you get down there but beetle’s
(pollinators) and the ants (sugary seeds) know where they are.
For years now
the Hosta has been a best seller for a shady spot.
They range in color from almost white leaves to almost black
ones. And some have spots and others stripes and some with colored
edges. They are easy to grow, like a fair amount of water, range in
height from 4 inches to 3 feet tall, and are not particular as to soil,
and some actually do well in sun. They
are a favorite food of slugs.
covers are considered invasive but most people like something you
don’t need to “babysit”. I like at least two of these: one is SNOW
ON THE MOUNTAIN (Aegopodium variegatum)
also known as GOUT WEED or BISHOP’S WEED. There is a green form just
as aggressive but not as interesting to me. It does well in shade or
sun, with lacy white blooms in late summer and about 18inches long. Be
careful if you look for this one as there are several with the common
name of SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN. One gets about 3 feet tall and likes only
Another one I
like is RIBBON GRASS, also known as GARDENER’S GARTERS (Phalaris
arundinacea). It grows on the west side of a brick garage where
everything else struggles. It
can’t go anywhere I don’t want it because there is a cement walk on
the other side. In spite of
hot bricks, blasting wind, and a dry area, it thickens up every year,
and is about 2 feet tall with handsome white stripes full length of its
leaves. If it gets knocked
down I just mow it and soon is back better than ever. Make sure you have
this plant in a contained place or it can be invasive.
GERANIUM varieties are a joy anywhere as they bloom generously early
summer and then again as it cools a little in the fall.
Only about 6 inches tall, I like them along the edge of my paths.
A clump will spread about 2 feet and hang over the edge with its
blooms of nearly any color you might like, with spots, stripes, and
color blends. They don’t
seem to be fussy about soil. Most
people call them CRANESBILL to separate them from their houseplant
“GERANIUM” which is actually a “pelargonium”. They do not like wet feet and some of them like rock
gardens. I find the blue
flowers a little harder to find so Johnson’s Blue is one of my
Growing up I
got the idea that ferns were hard to grow so avoided them for years.
Also they had no blooms. Finally I bought CINNAMON FERN (Osmunda
cinnamomea) as I liked those curly tops as they came up and then
unrolled. I planted them at
the south end of the back yard in shade and they liked it!!! They have
traveled the full length along the fence, sometimes in sun, but doing
better coming up under other plants.
They leave little humps when they die down in the fall and they
have now decided to grow into the dog pen.
Pepper, the Keeshond, likes to dig cavities to sleep in, so I
water their pen down occasionally to keep the ground soft enough. The
ferns enjoy it too as I have given many “humps” away.
One might not
think of VIRGINIA BLUEBELLS (Mertensia
ciliata) as a ground cover but mine has done that.
I have an area under the big cottonwood where I have chairs and a
chaise so the dogs and I can sit and listen to the leaves. It is covered with several inches of fine bark.
I picked this spot as I was sure nothing would grow there.
Not far from there I put out a few BLUEBELLS
years ago. They prefer to
come up in the bark so in the early spring I remove part of the
furniture in an area about 10 by 10 feet, which is a good half of my
space, and let it turn blue. Only
8 to 12 inches tall, the buds are pink but open blue.
One of the first plants up in the spring, they are traveling
around the area going north. They
don’t mind my moving back in. I think the bark keeps me from
compacting the soil.
sp., quite often called DEAD NETTLE is a low (6 to 8 inches) cover for semi or heavy shade
that sends out rhizomes to cover their space. There is quite a variety
of various color arrangements in the leaves including spots with names
like HERMAN’S PRIDE, GOLDEN CARPET, and BEACON
SILVER. Blooms are tiny but very visible in yellow, white, and pink.
To give you an idea of its vigor, I had it planted along my 6
foot board fence and several years ago I noticed it had gone under so I
dug it up. Evidently my
neighbor did not mind and kept it. Then this past summer it decided to
move back home, so I have “WHITE
NANCY” again along my fence.