Groundcover, the Good, Bad, and Ugly

groundcover

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 ground cover 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.

The Best

For Part Sun

My favourite groundcovers for part sun to shade include sweet woodruff and lamium. Each perky stem of sweet woodruff sports six shiny green leaves and tiny white flowers in spring.  Even after flowering this groundcover remains attractive all summer long.  Sweet woodruff 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.

Groundcover For Full Sun

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. This picture shows stonecrop in a container but it makes great groundcover as well.

Invasive Groundcover

Violets, creeping thyme, and periwinkle make a successful groundcover as well, but they can all be invasive…

groundcover
wild violets

My Least Favourite Groundcover

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 woodruff with clover leaves.  However, clover is much weedier and more 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.

Conclusions

The only time ground cover 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 ground cover 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…

Patio Restoration

For many hours this past month, one of my large projects in my landscaping business was a patio restoration in one of my favourite Kanata gardens. ┬áThe extensive patio and walkways were constructed approximately 7 years ago using an intricate and beautiful combination of flagstone as well as interlocking rectangular and square pavers, surrounding an exquisite custom-built home in one of Kanata’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

My job was to restore the patio and walkways to their former glory, as they had become weed, moss, and ant-infested over the years.  This patio restoration was quite a massive undertaking for me, as I had no previous experience with this type of landscaping, work as a one-woman team, and generally specialize in garden design and maintenance.

I consulted with a few friends that have built and maintained patios to find out the best way to get rid of the unwanted moss and weeds, then replace them with a polymer sand product to discourage their return.  Although I do realize that moss between flagstones can offer a desirable and natural look in some gardens, I agreed with the homeowner that this was not suitable for this magnificent home as it appeared neglected and unappealing, rather than intentional, yet natural.

This home is built in a natural woodland setting, so the first step of the patio restoration was to sweep the walkways and patios clean of leaves, dirt, twigs, deer and rabbit poop etc.  I then enlisted the help of my 16-year-old son to power wash the stones,  especially the cracks in between the stones, to remove the clumps of moss and weeds.  I am not sure what was originally used between these stones as a sealant, but whatever it was, there was not much of it left in the cracks, so the weeds,  moss, and ants had clearly taken over.

patio restoration

Once the patio and walkways were completely cleaned, I had to wait for a few consecutive sunny days with no chance of rain.  Last summer, this would not have been a problem, but this summer it was much more challenging.  The instructions for the polymer sand indicate that the area to be sealed must be completely clean and dry before sweeping the polymer sand between the cracks.  Then the area must be gently wet with a hose several times to complete the sealing process.  It must then dry for at least 24 hours without rain, excessive heat or cold, or foot traffic, to ensure a proper and successful seal.

The end result of this patio restoration is beautiful though, hopefully, long-lasting and well worth the effort.  The greenish tinge on the patio beneath the swing in this picture is not moss, just a reflection of the lush greenery in the damp patio stones after the completion of the project…

patio restoration