Groundcover is an integral part of most gardens. Groundcover is self explanatory, basically plants that cover the bare ground, usually between larger (taller) plants. The use of groundcover in gardens helps to minimize the appearance of weeds, which is always beneficial. There are thousands of varieties out there, some good, some not so good (in my opinion) and some downright ugly! Let me help you decipher some of my favourites and others that I encounter on a daily basis in my gardening business.
My favourite groundcover includes sweet woodruffe and lamium for part sun to shady areas as well as sedums and stonecrops for hot, sunny spots. Each perky stem of sweet woodruffe sports six shiny green leaves and tiny white flowers in spring. Even after flowering this groundcover remains attractive all summer long. Sweet woodruffe requires no deadheading either, which is an added bonus.
Lamium’s flowers are flashier, either pale pink or lavender in colour. Its variegated foliage (green and white) also remains attractive all season. Deadheading after blooming will create a second bloom time too.
I guess that’s what I like most about these two groundcovers; even when not in bloom they look great. Although both spread, they do so in small clumps, but are not invasive. Both are shallow rooted, so easy to remove from areas you don’t want them. I use both of these as edging plants in my gardens as well. I have also used lamium in shady hanging baskets as it trails nicely as it grows.
For hot, sunny and dry spots in the garden, including tucked between or cascading over rocks, or even in containers, you can’t beat sedums or stonecrops. Both come in a wide variety of bloom colours. I especially love the dragon’s blood (red) stonecrop and the cute rosettes of hen and chicks.
Violets make a successful groundcover as well, but they can be invasive…
Some of the not so nice (looking) groundcover that crops up uninvited in gardens are clover and mosses. Clover is cute looking too, some people actually confuse sweet woodruffe with clover leaves. However, clover is much weedier and invasive. I don’t mind clover in my lawns, but pull it out of my gardens. Some people encourage moss to grow between their stonework patios and walkways, not a look I am fond of.
The only time groundcover in your gardens does not work well is if you prefer mulch between your plants. Not that you can’t have both, the problem is that most groundcover is low growing so the mulch can overpower and even smother it. For this reason, I don’t usually recommend both mulch and groundcover in the same garden.
As I was snapping pictures of these varieties of groundcover the other day, I spied a garter snake peaking out at me from the cover of a hosta. As a kid I used to think they were called gardener snakes, most likely because I saw them mostly in gardens. I probably (unintentionally) disturbed this cutie’s sun bask. By the time I focused on him, he was off, slithering away down the stone path to safety…