Monday, April 26, 2010

Ground Covers - The Good, Bad, Ugly

The idea of ground covers is to green the area and cover the ground.  Duh!!  I've spent years trying to find the ideal ground cover.  The idea sounds simple enough, but ....

This is 'snow-on-the-mountain.' Other common names include Bishop's Weed, Gout Weed, Ground Elder. It's botanical name is Aegopodium. a perennial, ground cover Boy does it.  This plant spreads  by runners, under ground. Snow-on-the-mountain is very aggressive and invasive.  Use a non-selective herbicide to the leaves to inhibit its spreading.  I'd use this plant in containers where you can restrict its growth.  But, as you can see, Gout Weed has moved all around my garden. Now I'm on a mission to remove it once and for all.

Another 'goof' I admit to (Other's not so much) is 'creeping jenny'.  I initially loved the bright, gold shades it offered the garden.  But once again, (Lysimachia nummularia) - plant has gone wild! The plant can jump and creep.  I've found it in areas not even close to the original bed.  I've used creeping jenny in containers too, but I urge you to be very careful where you put them.


This photo is wild strawberry. It is also known as Frais des bois, or Woodland strawberry. I have never planted this wild strawberry so I'm blaming birds for their deposit of this fruit to my yard.  Again, strawberries are everywhere - in the beds and in the lawn.  The fruit is quite edible, and the yellow blossoms are pretty but just not uninvited!

These ground covers would be classed as The Bad.  They are out of control and I'm ready to initiate a full fledged assault.  I'll let you know how that works!

The Good -
Not all ground covers don't mind their manners.  Some are quite nice.  I particularly like sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum, a shade gardeners delight.  It grows quickly and has a vanilla fragrance in early spring when it blooms. Sweet woodruff is a valuable herb in the garden as it has culinary and medicinal uses. It's a perfect choice for those shady spots near trees and overhangs. It's also a natural insect repellent. Sweet woodruff grows 8-12" tall and prefers moist, well-drained soils.

Pachysandra terminalis is perhaps the best evergreen ground cover for moderately- to deeply-shaded sites, forming dense mats of glossy dark green foliage.  The white flowers are not significant, but do brighten the area for a week or so in the early spring.  I've got this under a white pine which is a very dry area and pachysandra has taken many years to spread into this 30' by 15' area.  I started with only a dozen plants, so my waiting has paid off with a really dark green, well-behaved covering.

One more ground cover I enjoy is sedum.(I don't know the variety - sorry).  Here in a very hot, sunny area, this guy just hangs out.  The golden blooms in late summer are contrasted by the blue-green foliage. Full sun - at least six hours a day - make this plant perform well. 
The Ugly - Again -- this is subjective, but I am really about over the 'sweet violets' and the vinca that love the shade under the lilac bushes.  This too is an area that I need to revamp.
  The non-selective herbicides may get applied once I remove the perennials that I want to save - the hostas, the Solomon's seal, and some ferns.  The herbicide I like is an OMRI  listed product from St Gabriel Labs, called Burn Out II.  It's all organic and naturally degrades in the soil, leaving no chemical  residue to contaminate the soil or water. Since it is a 'non-selective' herbicide, it will kill anything you spray it on.  Use caution around desirable plants and turf.

The last ground cover I have to deal with is the grasses that pop up in the gravel paths and in unmulched areas.  The Burn Out II will work on these too. 
What ground covers do you like?  What invasive plants drive you crazy?   How do you deal with them?
I'd like to hear from you.  

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Once upon a time I loved ground covers and like you planted many of the wrong ones. Gout Weed and
Chameleon Plant. I have to admit if some hybridize(r) would make it smaller I would plant it in island beds. Keeping it in bounds with the mover. It is a pretty plant - the smell - well...

Spotted Dead Nettle has become one of may favorites. It tends to be a little more costly and little harder to take off, but given time makes a beautiful ground cover.