Do you find yourself spending hours on end reading seed catalogs? Must you keep a detailed a map of where you planted all 350 bulbs on your hillside just so you can remember all the different cultivars? No? That’s totally fine – not all of us are plant nerds. Some of us just need answers to common landscape issues.
In today’s gardening culture, you will find that the themes are changing. Plants not only provide beauty, barriers, and structure, they can also provide solutions to common landscape and gardening problems. In this article, I address a few of my favorite groundcovers that spark interest while also fighting the good fight against weeds.
1. Ice Plant (Delosperma sp.) Ice plant is an outstanding succulent performer in locations characterized by full sun and well-drained, dry soils. My all-time favorite cultivar of Delosperma dyeri is ‘Fire Spinner’ (pictured). Ice plant comes in many colors, ranging from whites to reds. Native to South Africa, this plant can surprisingly withstand cold temperatures quite well. It grows like a carpet, creating a fortress against weeds. ‘Fire Spinner’ spreads moderately fast, and produces small, daisy-like flowers that bloom in May.
2. Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre) Another succulent I absolutely can never say no to is Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’. It is award winning, and spreads very well without any aggression. Golden yellow and neon green foliage during the warmer months turn into brilliant tones of corals and chartreuse in the winter. Middle Tennessee has the perfect climate for this sedum’s best color story. Here, in Nashville, its fall and winter color is dynamite.
3.Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) Who isn’t mesmerized by a blue flower with zero tolerance for weeds? Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, also known as “Leadwort”, performs best in partial shade. It begins flowering in mid-summer and continues well into fall. Even the spent flowers and seedpods provide an attractive shape and maroon color interest. While it is not evergreen, it does reemerge in the spring.
4.Creeping Raspberry (Rubus hayata-koidzumii formerly, calycinoides) One of the most outstanding groundcovers, R. hayata-koidzumii features uniquely lobed foliage that is evergreen in zones 7 – 8. Its growth habit is an interesting combination of matting and creeping, known to be more creeping in shadier sites. It does bloom, though the flowers are small, mostly hidden by the foliage. The fruit is an orange aggregate. Fall color for this groundcover is exceptional, consisting of burgundy and orange hues. You can find this Taiwanese native draping over the wall at Cheekwood’s Wills Perennial Garden.
5. Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) This groundcover is ideal for wetter areas in your landscape – near streams or ponds. It will spread readily, but it is easy to remove due to its shallow roots. The cultivar, ‘Au- rea’ is an attractive and chartreuse- hue and will brighten up a shaded area of a garden. It does flower, but the real beauty and power of this plant emanates from the foliage. Throughout my gardening career, I’ve grown to appreciate some truly basic things in life: a well-balanced cocktail, a restful night’s sleep, and an effective groundcover. When a plant can be used to protect against other, unwanted, plants, an ecological victory has been won. Using groundcovers in place of mulch (which degrades and washes away over time) or herbicide (which has the potential to be toxic), is an easy and effective solution to a well-maintained yard. Next time you are visiting your local independent garden center, keep your eye out for these plants that will add beauty and protection to your landscape.