things and places for homes and gardens

I forgot about groundcovers

Wednesday 12 November 2008 - Filed under Plants


I’ve been looking at my yard thinking something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what. When planning for a friend’s yard, I divided up their shopping list by trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers, and had a moment where I realized I had completely forgotten about groundcovers in my own yard. I got so wrapped up in a plant-the-structure-first mindset, I completely forgot to move on once that was done. I just kept trying to pack in more trees and shrubs I don’t have space for. Even though I am fond of saying “if you can still see dirt, you’re not done yet,” I had forgotten all about the groundcovers.

I became averse to them early on in my developing garden snobbery, when I would see vast expanses of vinca or pachysandra or ornamental raspberries covering entire beds at gas station parking lots, and just avoided the whole section of the nursery where things could be bought in flats. While I generally don’t like groundcover as filler for large spaces, I think it’s beautiful peeking out of the edges of the garden, and it tidies things up and makes things look finished. Happily, with the realization, I have a whole new category to get compulsive about, which should keep me busy for a couple years. The other good news is that it’s the one thing I can honestly say I have room to plant, that I don’t have to wander around and try to figure out how to shoehorn in

At my mom’s, everything I love about groundcover making an appearance

Hakonechloa, ferns, babys tears

My biggest surprise in the new-to-me planting category is just how much I love Wintergreen. I have been a garden grinch for so long, monochromatic green and white are all that’s allowed most of the time, but I got these little Wintergreens with red berries a while back, and finally got them planted a couple days ago. It wasn’t until I got them in the ground that I fully appreciated them. The picture doesn’t do them justice, but they sort of complete things. The bright red berries make everything pop a little. They read from a distance, which I consider a requirement in my one-of-everything gardening style. If you don’t have enough that reads from a distance, everything fades into clutter. You can see the wintergreen berries peeking out from the street and from the front door window where I like to stand and look at the garden and plan whenever I can’t actually be out there working. Next to it, I’ve planted Corsican sandwort, a bright little evergreen, white flowering groundcover for moist shady soil. There’s still too much dirt showing, but picture it next year or the one after, when everything has filled in.

Corsican sandwort and wintergreen

I did plant a few golden oreganos 2 years ago, and they did well in spring (shown below), but got kind of leggy and darker green as the year progressed. I’m still trying to figure out the right formula to keep them looking good. I might need to pinch them back to keep they shrubby, and they might benefit from division, which means more groundcover to spread around.

Golden oregano

Scotch moss and Irish moss have been good performers up in my mom’s yard, but I don’t have the same results. It’s too bad, it’s so beautiful. I might keep trying to find a place where they will be happy.

Scottish moss

I love the tiny leaves of corsican mint, and the way it invites you to touch the leaves and release the fresh minty smell. I just planted a couple this fall that I hope will take off.

Corsican mint

My other new hopeful is the groundcover dogwood. I had some in the back yard that started out great, but got all slug-eaten and never really thrived. I planted a different variety up in the front yard, where I might be able to talk myself into some slug control, and I’m hoping I get to keep this little one around.

Cornus canadensis

2008-11-12  »  megan

Talkback x 5

  1. Karen
    12 November 2008 @ 10:07 am

    I forgot that too, along with many other things. Must get to the nursery before it’s too late! Thanks for the reminder. The golden oregano is lovely, hope the pinching back or division helps.

  2. Joy
    13 November 2008 @ 4:19 am

    Megan … I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful note.
    I appreciated it very much.
    The pictures on your blog have been amazing … I have some catching up to do !
    Thanks again

  3. megan
    14 November 2008 @ 6:59 am

    Karen – I’m here to help :)
    Joy – Glad to hear from you and see you back. Sending good thoughts your way.

  4. tenderleaf
    24 March 2009 @ 8:27 am

    You should try cutting back the oregano when it gets leggy. It will sprout right back up.

  5. Megan
    24 March 2009 @ 8:39 am

    Tenderleaf – thanks, I am trying that this year. I just gave it a good haircut for spring.