Named aptly because of their ability to cover bare ground, groundcovers are very versatile plants. Quite a few are low-growing, and multiply fairly rapidly to form a dense mat, not only enhancing the beauty of the garden but also discourages weeds from invading. Used creatively, these plants can convert any plain landscape into an exciting one: Imagine a groundcover under a tree rather than mulch, a fragrant herb between stepping stones, or a difficult slope covered with a cascading plant. Strawberries form an edible carpet and attract bees too; the possibilities are endless.
The most commonly seen groundcover, of course, is turf grass. To a certain extent, we all have a lawn, whether a small or large one. But some situations might not allow for the grass to flourish; in such cases, groundcovers that vary in size, color and texture, come to the rescue.
Groundcovers, indeed, are great problem solvers. Planting on slopes helps control soil erosion and water run-off. In areas where weed removal is difficult, such plants can be a life saver. In a large bed in the front of our property, the daylilies that are growing have minimized the task of weeding, plus bloom all summer long; likewise, in a flower bed in a different area of our yard, the ajuga patch that began from just one plant has found its way onto the nooks and crannies, adding an interesting look. In spring, spikes of purple flowers that rise from the low burgundy foliage are an added bonus.
Ajuga, however, tends to be a little on the invasive side, as runners root and produce new plants, at times in the adjoining lawn if any. But being rather shallow-rooted, the rosette-shaped plants are not hard to get rid of.
Some examples of plants that can be used as groundcovers are creeping junipers, liriope, moss phlox, pachysandra, thymes, and sedums.
For more information, one can refer to a comprehensive publication by the Virginia Cooperative Extension on groundcovers (http://pubs.vt.edu/) or call the Chesterfield County Extension office.
Gita’s Tip of the Month
Water newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials deeply and regularly so that the root system can get well established before summer arrives.