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May 14, 2008 > Pat Kite's Garden: Tough flowering groundcovers

Pat Kite's Garden: Tough flowering groundcovers

By Pat Kite

Tri-city clay, water rate increases and dislike of endless weeding have taken their toll on my little grey gardening cells. Here are a few of my favorite tough flowering ground covers that stay around, one form or another, all year.

CERASTIUM TOMENTOSUM or SNOW IN SUMMER. This ground-hugging silver-grey leaf plant has a profusion of snow white flowers in mid-summer. Snow-in-summer tolerates abysmal soil, slopes as well as flat ground. Water to get started, otherwise this charming plant enjoys mostly dry. A lot of so-called groundcovers are really small shrubs.
This one is just about 5-inches maximum and spreads serenely. Try it in semi-sun too. You can walk on it, but not as a pathway.

CAMPANULA PORTENSCHLAGIANA or DALMATIAN BELLFLOWER. One afternoon I came home from shopping and found two nicely attired senior ladies kneeling at my front yard garden digging up Campanulas. "You have so many," one said, rather embarrassed, "we didn't think you would mind." I frowned. They went away, but not without a pilfered batch tucked in pockets. Humph! In early summer this partial sun groundcover turns portions of my front yard sky blue. Unlike some of the other campanulas, Portenschlagiana flowers on and off until fall. It does need semi-regular water.

DUCHESNEA INDICA or INDIAN MOCK STRAWBERRY. A Sunset reference says "It grows readily without much care." My mock strawberry is in a "do-nothing" yard segment where I trod occasionally. Nothing seems to disturb it. While called "strawberry" due to 1/2-inch red berries, even birds don't seem to like the yucky taste. Yellow flowers precede the berries. If you give it lots of water, it will spread and spread. But if you don't like the sight of bare earth, and want weed smother, this pleasant sun, semi-sun or mostly shade drought resistant groundcover certainly has its uses.

GERANIUM BIOKOVO. I am never sure about geraniums as ground covers, since sometimes they grow upwards instead of earth hugging, and a few can become plagues. But Biokovo has turned out nicely. A moderate spreader in mostly sun, it has pretty whitish flowers most of late spring and summer. You do have to water occasionally.

LYSIMACHIA or CREEPING JENNY. Almost flat light green leaves toddle along in somewhat sun areas. I grow them between my roses, where they are gradually blanketing an area. This summer I will try Jenny in the shade under my towering privets. There is a yellow variety said to be more shade tolerant. In really good surroundings, this ground-level ground cover is reputed to be ambitious. However so far it behaves quite well. Flowers are tiny and yellow, not easy to see way down there.

Where is VINCA MAJOR in this list? This blue-flowering ground cover gets to 12-inches high and really travels via long trailing stems that root. It's too tall for my tastes, but has a definite purpose in shaded areas that can be confined.

Before you purchase "ground covers," check it out with Sunset or another good garden reference. Some plants called ground covers aren't really; they leave too much open space for weed intrusion.







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