All About Landscape Daily News

Ground Covers With Flowers

Feb 26

These are the perennials to choose to cover a little or large area

Ground cover brings up images of monotonous patches of plain green leaves, which are fine for just filling space but not particularly pleasing to the color-loving gardener. Many spreading perennials, on the other hand, perform an equally fantastic job of preserving the soil and crowding out weeds while providing an abundance of lovely blossoms. Mass plantings of these low-maintenance perennials are ideal for new gardens since only a handful may cover a large area, alleviating the financial strain. Linking individual shrubs into bigger beds with floral ground covering substantially reduces laborious mowing and pruning duties in established landscapes.

Ground covers with a long bloom season, but that require only little pruning or deadheading after the first flush to keep the flowers coming, are the ideal for tiny spaces. Because you can access all of the plants from outside the bed, keeping these plants in manageable areas makes this little upkeep easier. You'll need a ground cover that will do a lot of the work for you to fill a huge space. Fortunately, you have a few choices: large clumping clumpers that spread extensively in all directions, ground-hugging creepers with stems that rapidly take root where they rest on the soil, or spreaders that create new plants from a wide range of roots. All ten blooming ground covers I propose get high scores for their lengthy bloom season, pest and disease tolerance, and capacity to swiftly occupy any size area.

 

For compact settings, repeat bloomers are ideal

'Bath's Pink' pink (Dianthus 'Bath's Pink') has delicate fringed blooms, but its persistent nature awards it a high rank in the category of blooming ground coverings. 'Bath's Pink' is more tolerant of heat and humidity than older pinks, which have a reputation for "melting out" in hot weather. It may grow in a variety of soil types, but likes a pH of neutral to slightly alkaline. However, good drainage is essential, especially in the winter. The fragrant flowers bloom in late spring to early summer, although scattered blooms might occur later, especially if you shear off the fading flower heads. When the plants aren't in flower, the dense carpets of thin, blue-green leaves give plenty of interest for the remainder of the summer and into the winter.

While I'm now drawn to brightly colorful blooms like those on 'Bath's Pink,' I can't get enough of catmint's calm blues and grays (Nepeta spp. and cvs.). 'Walker's Low' (Nepeta faassenii 'Walker's Low') is my fave. Its compact growth habit makes it a very attractive ground cover for hydrangeas and other blooming shrubs. The 15- to 20-inch-tall mounds of gray-green leaves are appealing all season long and produce a minty fragrance when brushed against. They're crowned with 6- to 8-inch-long spikes of purple-blue blooms from late spring to midsummer, and a gentle midsummer shearing stimulates rebloom in late summer and fall. 'Walker's Low' is exceptionally drought resistant once established.

For those who appreciate aroma and blossoms, Oreganos (Origanum spp. and cvs.) is a fantastic ground cover. While the spicy-scented leaves of 'Herrenhausen' oregano (O. laevigatum 'Herrenhausen') lack the depth of taste seen in culinary varieties, their stunning clusters of purplish pink flowers and deep purple bracts provide color to the landscape. The plants form 1- to 2-foot-tall mounds with little leaves that emerge purplish in the spring, become rich green in the summer, and mature to a deep reddish purple in the autumn. The 1- to 2-inch-wide bloom clusters begin in June and continue to bloom far into the fall (particularly if deadheaded); they attract butterflies and make excellent cut flowers. Once established, 'Herrenhausen' is a low-maintenance plant that can withstand heat and drought.

A large variety of geraniums, like oreganos, make excellent ground coverings. 'Rozanne' (Geranium 'Rozanne') stands out among these outstanding choices for its quantity of flowers during an incredibly extended season. The spreading mounds of sharply cut, softly mottled green leaves are covered with 212-inch-wide, saucer-shaped flowers beginning in early June. The blooms are clear blue with a conspicuous white center in mild weather or partial shade; in warmer weather in direct sunlight, they are more lavender blue with a little white eye. Shearing the plants lightly in the middle of the summer keeps them clean and encourages rebloom far into the fall. Because 'Rozanne' is a bit slower to sprout in the spring than other geraniums, combine it with spring crocus, species tulips, and other little bulbs to get a head start.

With its thin, notably spiky blossoms, 'Goodness Grows' veronica (Veronica 'Goodness Grows') adds a pleasant touch of verticality to a ground cover that tends to form mats or low mounds. The slender, brilliant green leaves make a mat that rarely grows higher than 6 inches. However, from late spring to July, the deep blue racemes quadruple the plant's height. Reblooming throughout the fall is encouraged by a single shearing or frequent deadheading. Because it is one of the lowest-growing, longest-blooming, and most consistent veronica cultivars, 'Goodness Grows' is the best ground cover of all the veronicas.

 

In vast regions, big clumpers and quick spreaders are used

As a floral ground cover, asters (Aster spp. and cvs.) are a unique choice. While most clump-forming perennials grow up rather than out, cultivars of Aster oblongifolius, such as 'October Skies,' can take up a lot of room in their first year. Although this scented aster does not bloom until early to mid-fall, it is well worth the wait. The thick, 2-foot-tall mounds of narrow green leaves seem like miniature pruned bushes throughout the most of the season. They bloomed in the autumn, blanketed in hundreds of fragrant, daisy-like lavender blue blossoms. 'October Skies' blooms well through the first frosts and keeps its shape far into the winter, offering excellent late-season appeal. Individual plants stay in clusters, but their tops stretch out to occupy a space approximately 2 feet across.

When you combine colorful blossoms with variegated leaves, you get an eye-catching ground cover. Yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata) is recognized for its 1-inch-wide brilliant yellow flowers that bloom from July to fall and cover the top half of the erect stems; 'Alexander' has a white edging around each leaf. This 2-foot-tall spreader is tough and dependable, growing in a variety of conditions from sun to shade and moist to dry soil; however, be cautious that a combination of intense sun and extremely dry soil might cause the leaf tips to turn brown. This species is neither related to the invasive purple loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), nor is it as aggressive as its cousin, gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) (Lythrum salicaria).

Mexican evening primrose is another fast-spreading plant (Oenothera berlandieri). If you have a spot where its fast-creeping roots may spread freely without encroaching other plants (or your lawn), this deceptively dainty-looking perennial makes a great ground cover. It has little dark green leaves that are often tinted with scarlet and grows to reach 6 to 12 inches tall. The cupped, 2- to 3-inch-wide blooms come in a variety of colors ranging from brilliant pink to white. Flowers bloom from spring through fall, with a brief respite during the warmest months of the year.

Try sedum spurium 'John Creech' (Sedum spurium 'John Creech') if you prefer a more modest pink-flowered shrub. In moderate regions, it is evergreen and spreads slowly to form thick, 2-inch-high carpets of delicately scalloped leaves. The vivid pink blooms, which are 14 to 12 inches across, are held in compact clusters slightly above the leaves. 'John Creech' blooms in the middle to late summer, although gardeners have noticed it blooming in the late spring and early fall as well. Full sun and dry soil are preferred for abundant flowering, but the plants may also tolerate dry shadow; damp soil causes to looser growth that is less likely to keep weeds out.