Friday, May 01, 2009
Groundcovers work when turfgrass won't
We love turfgrass, and nothing comes close to it for beauty and utility on our sports fields, in our parks, in our common areas and for our home lawns. Even so, native and regionally adapted creeping perennials are often a better design choice for some locations within landscapes and also in some regions of the country, where water resources are scarce and/or expensive.
A little research or a trip to a local botanical garden or demonstration garden will usually reveal attractive low-maintenance perennial ground covers that grow in sun or shade, often in locations where turfgrass struggles. Most ground covers, once they're established, require very little water or fertilizer. Most varieties only need one feeding of slow-release fertilizer each year to provide a thick mat of foliage that helps prevent weeds, eliminating the need for chemical control.
Ground covers are especially well suited for small areas that are difficult to maintain — slopes, under trees or in confined landscapes. Many of the varieties will withstand some foot traffic. Varieties such as Platt's Black Brass Buttons, with its wonderfully textured purple-gray leaves, and County Park Pratia with its showy blue blooms above a dense mat of foliage, are perfect varieties to use between stepping-stones or along walkways.
Check out the many varieties of sedums that thrive in sunny, dry areas. Sedums work well on slopes and are a classic rock garden plant filling in between rocks, eliminating a haven for weeds. John Creech Sedum, with it purple-pink flowers and dense foliage, and Angelina Sedum, with its uniquely textured golden-yellow foliage, are star performers in sunny, arid areas.
Some ground covers, such as the Yellow Ripple Ivy, also do very well in patio containers. Ivy and other creeping perennials make great fillers for container gardens, drooping or cascading over the edges of the pots.
(Thanks to Forever and Ever Groundcovers for reminding us of the beauty and utility of these attractive but often-overlooked landscape plants.)