Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ground Covers or Living Mulches

Ground covers are both practical and beautiful in the landscape.  Ground cover plants will fill in to form a dense planting, a living carpet.  This is not only aesthetically pleasing but it serves many purposes.  Living mulches discourage weeds, hold in moisture, prevent erosion, and are easy to care for.  Ground covers are perennials and spread easily on their own.  

There are ground covers to fill every need from shade, part shade, to hot spots in the garden.  While this is by no means a complete list, here are some of my favorites.

Bishop's Weed or Goutweed Aegopodioum Podgraria

This ground cover comes with a warning it spreads through the rootstocks and can get out of control if not managed.  I love this ground cover with its variegated white and green leaves and lacy white flowers.  Bishop's weed grows about a foot tall and the small flower stalks can grow up to 20 inches.  It looks great in a shaded rock garden or among taller perennials such as foxglove or delphinium.  If Bishop's weed is planted in full sun, the leaf edges may burn.  To prevent leaf scorch and encourage it to spread rapidly plant in rich moist soil.

Bishop's Weed

This is a variegated cultivar you can see bulbs mixed in.

Bugleweed Ajuga Reptans

This ground cover has it all beautiful textured foliage and spikes of lavender flowers.  It hugs the ground and spreads rapidly.

The flowers bloom late spring and are 4 -8 inches tall.  There are many varieties of bugleweed.  My favorites are those with variegated leaves and  burgundy leaves.  

Bugleweed likes partial light to full shade.  It needs fertile and even moisture.  

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff Gallium Oboratum

Bright green foliage and white starlike flowers make this ground cover a perfect combination with spring bulbs.  The leaf pattern is what I like about sweet woodruff.   It has narrow leaves that whorl around the stem and petite white flowers.   It grows 6-8 inches.  It spreads by underground runners.  

This is a good choice for shade gardens with a woodland feel. Sweet woodruff is beautiful with hostas, ferns, and astilbes.  In warm climates, it may even hang onto its leaves through the winter.  Once again choose a site with light to dense shade and keep the soil moist.

Fragaria "Lipstick" Ornamental Strawberry

This little charmer produces lipstick pink flowers in spring and fall.  It will produce some berries but it is best to remove the berries to encourage flowering.  Like strawberries it can be divided and has runners.  It is a cross between a garden strawberry and marsh cinquefoil.  It grows well in containers, hanging baskets, or as a ground cover.

Snow in the Summer Cerastium Silver Carpet 

This profusely blooming evergreen perennial has dainty white flowers on mounded silver grey foliage that resembles a pile of snow in the summer.  This ground cover is a member of the carnation family and will bloom early summer.  It can be started from seed in the late spring or divisions can be taken from existing plants in the fall.  It loves full sum or partial shade and an added bonus is that the deer will leave it alone.

Lamb's Ear

For a taller perennial that will cover the ground lamb's ear is a good choice.  It produces beautiful spikes of lavender flowers that bees love.  The foliage is velvety soft and fuzzy and a beautiful silver grey color.  If you allow this hardy perennial to go to seed it will self seed everywhere.  To control it cut the flower stocks before they go to seed.  It can also be propagated by division in the fall.  This ground cover is very drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Dead Nettle Lamium

This ground cover has serrated, silver grey leaves.  The lovely small flower spikes are similar in appearance to snapdragons.  This grows well in containers as well as in the garden.  It looks gorgeous among hostas.  It spreads by rooting and is both drought and deer resistant.  The name is interesting.  The leaves resemble stinging nettle which is a weed but the "stingers" on this Lamium are harmless or "dead."  It is actually in the mint family.

Creeping Phlox

This perennial forms mounds of dense flowers in early spring.  There are a variety of colors making the ground cover a bold addition to your garden.  It is a spring bloomer.  After blooming you can divide creeping phlox or  cut it down to encourage denser foliage for the summer.  The foliage is not as attractive as other ground covers so keep that in mind when finding a spot for it.  It prefers full sun.

Living mulches or ground covers have endless possibilities and potential.  They are a functional and beautiful and should have a place in every garden.

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