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GREAT PERFORMING GROUNDCOVERS
BY BRUCE ZIMMERMAN

In the past groundcovers have been thought of as plants to cover soil areas where either poor soil conditions, heavy shade or steep slopes made it hard to maintain or grow grass. Now groundcovers are recognized for their own striking beauty to accent tree and shrub plantings.  For example, a pool of showy blue Vinca or Viola blooms, surrounding two or three glistening clumps of white birch can achieve a dramatic effect in the midst of a deep green lawn.

Also because of the ease of care and low maintenance requirements of many groundcovers, they can be used as a living mulch to replace grass on low traffic lawn areas.

Almost any low growing plant can be used as a groundcover. It is important to pick plants that meet your needs and that will thrive in the location you have selected. Take time to consider the amount of light, soil conditions and traffic before choosing.

As with any other type of plantings, the proper soil preparation is essential for success. Poor soils can be improved with peat moss, compost and fertilization. Once the soil is prepared, a mulch of bark cover is ideal to prevent rain washout and weed development while the plants are getting established.

GROUNDCOVERS UNDER TREES

There are many plans that will survive under the heavy shade of trees or in dark places between buildings. Some of the best includeHostas As A Groundcover Vinca, often known as Periwinkle, noted for its dark green evergreen leaves and showy periwinkle blue flowers and Pachysandra, which will make an evergreen, mat about 8" to 10" tall. English Ivy often thought of , as an evergreen vine will also make an excellent groundcover on shady banks.

Another excellent groundcover vine is the fast-growing Hall's Honeysuckle that is covered each summer with delightfully fragrant blooms that will attract hummingbirds, great for medium shade to full sun. Other attractive vines include Virginia creeper, and Winter creeper Euonymous with their bright fall colours.

Perennials such as the fragrant Lily of the Valley, Ajuga and Viola are also excellent for quickly covering shady areas. (Use caution, as all Violas are invasive.)

Although somewhat taller growing 10" to3' tall, Hosta will make a spectacular show in the shade with their striking foliage ranging from blue to green and numerous variations of variegated whites and gold. For sunny spots perennials such as Daylilies, Daisies, hardy Sweet pea (maybe invasive) or even meadow flowers will add a splash of colour and thrive in poorer soils.

GROUNDCOVERS FOR STEEP SLOPES

On steep slopes, a good groundcover is often preferable to maintaining grass. For this purpose, one of my favourites is the spreading Cotoneaster. They are relatively fast growing, have striking summer foliage and small white flowers and are followed by fall coloured leaves and bright red berries that persist into the winter. 

In fact a whole range of low growing shrubs would be ideal for slopes or planting in beds under trees. These include he many colourful Spireas the range from lemon gold to purple red, Dwarf Deutiza with showy white blooms and gold flowered Potentillas. Cotoneaster apiculata groundcover Also evergreens such as low spreading junipers and Euonymus both green and variegated varieties and Dwarf Spreading Yews will thrive in a wide range of conditions.

These are only a few of the many plants that can be used. Don't restrict yourself to the groundcover section of your local garden center, use your imagination and create a living mulch that will provide a striking accent in your garden.

GROUNDCOVERS FOR DRY SHADE

Anaphalis margaritacea Epimedium
Geranium (some) Hosta
Lamium maculatum Pachysandra terminalis
Pulmonaria saccharata Stachys byzantina
Symphytum grandiflorum Vinca minor

GROUNDCOVERS FOR SHADE 

Asarum europaeum
Asarum canadense HOSTA AS A GROUNDCOVER
 Hosta
Convallaria majalis
Epimedium
Euonymus fortunei
Lamium spp.
Pachysandra terminalis
Paxistima canbyi
GROUNDCOVERS FOR SUN
Phlox subulata
Fragaria chiloensis BERGENIA OR PIG SQUEAK
Thymus sp.
Sedum sp.
Bergenia cordifolia
Juniperus horizontalis
Cotoneaster horizontalis
Cerastium tomentosum
Daylily sp.

GROUNDCOVERS FOR DAPPLED SHADE

Brunnera macrophylla
'Variegata'
Alchemilla mollis
Carex siderostica variegata
Hosta
Erica carnea
Heuchera  sp.
Lonicera spp.
Lamium spp.
Tiarella sp.
Ajuga reptans AJUGA IS AN EXCELLENT GROUNDCOVER
Vinca minor

This is only a small sampling of the plants you can use. Just use your imagination!

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