Donate SIGN UP

Why are ground cover plants so useful

01:00 Thu 14th Mar 2002 |

A.� There are plenty of very beautiful ground cover plants that have a place in the garden in their own right.

However, as well as their decorative value they are also very useful, problem solving things. They can be used spilling over the edge of borders to soften the line of paths, to give colour, cover and stability to awkward and steep slopes or banks and be used under trees and shaded areas where no grass will grow.

Perhaps there happiest virtue, however, especially for the lazy, or clever gardener is their ability to fill what would otherwise be bare earth around taller plants, providing a blanket that weeds can't penetrate.

Q.� What preparation do you need to do

A.� You need to think about the usual factors such as sun or shade, wet or dry and the type of soil. You can then start to whittle it down to a few suitable plants for the conditions.

There are two other important factors to consider. If you want the ground cover to keep weeds down then it will need to be evergreen or at least partly evergreen. Deciduous ground cover defeats the object if the weeds have half the year to drop their seeds on bare soil. Fortunately, you'll find most of your choices fit the bill.

Secondly have a good think about the plants around. For instance, if it is growing around a flowering shrub do you want contrasting or complimentary foliage, and if the ground cover plant flowers itself do you want it to flower at the same time or later or earlier to prolong interest.

Q.� What about planting

A.� Many ground cover plants are fairly shallow rooting so it's usually a case of digging a hole and sticking them in. It is worth giving beds a thorough weeding before you plant to minimise the competition from while the plants grow into each other. It also stops annoying weeds getting through and spoiling the effect. You will have to keep this up until the cover is knitted together.

Ground cover usually looks best when it has a naturalistic feel so it is better to plant in threes or fives of the same plant to get a drift effect. In small areas mixing more than two varieties together can look messy and contrived.

Q.� Which are good for the edge of borders

A.� Ajuga reptens is a great favourite on account of its evergreen deep purple foliage and spires of blue flowers in spring. It will grow in sun or shade.

Another much loved in English gardens is the Perriwinkle, Vinca minor with violet flowers all summer. There is a variegated version, Argenteovariegata, which gives added foliage interest.

Achemilla mollis, with its frothing greeny-yellow flowers of and its soft green foliage is also very adaptable although vigorous and needs watching and the cranesbill geraniums, with their variety of flowers, are rightly popular.

Q.� What about banks

A.� Cotoneaster dammeri, with its tiny green leaves, white flowers in early summer and red berries is the real classic for steep banks. You wouldn't want to plant it anywhere else in the garden, but the bramble Rubus tricolour is colourful, as its name suggests, and will tolerate the most barren soil.

Q.� And under trees or deep shade

A.� There are hundreds of different creeping ivies which will do the job, and if you chose the right one give interesting foliage as well.

Both Lamium galeobdolon and Pachysandra terminalis are both very vigorous evergreen so are good under trees where they will quickly smother the bare ground while being kept in some sort of check by the poor soil. The former has silvery flecks on the leaves.

If you've got a question about your home or garden, click here.

By Tom Gard

Do you have a question about Home & Garden?