Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Top Ten List... Book 2

Plants placed in a sea of mulch or adrift in a vast green lawn may look tidy, but they seem rather naked to me.  I am a sucker for that lovely interweaving of plants when one green, maybe slightly black and glossy, blends into another, maybe deeply veined with a touch of red.
Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping with Colorful, Low-Maintenance Ground Covers, by Barbara W. Ellis, confirms my love of creeping, spreading vegetation and a garden full of texture.

Barbara begins her book with a strong case for ground covers: as a lawn substitute, especially under trees and in rocky or uneven spots; to stabilize slopes and bogs; to visually link separate areas of the garden; and to soften hardscapes like paths and driveways.  She provides particularly useful information about how different ground covers spread, aggressive species to avoid, and combining ground covers with structural elements.
The side steps leading up to our backyard are interplanted with six varieties of Thymus.
Echinacea purpurea is allowed to seed where it can find an inch! 

The second part of Covering Ground is a celebratory list of all the plants that serve well as ground cover.  In general, Barbara organizes them by sun exposure and rate of growth just like most plant catalogs.  But then she takes it a step further and looks at other shared characteristics: sun lovers with beautiful foliage; ground covers that can handle foot traffic; traditional foliage and flowers for shade; native woodland plants; and shrubs, vines and trees that weep and creep.
Unidentified Ferns with Epimedium and Stylophorum diphyllum
cover this small, shady bank near a tiny stream.
The Celandine Poppy will probably reseed faster than the other plants.

She suggests lists for alkaline and acidic soils, seaside locations, water-logged soil, dry shade and even areas with almost no soil at all.  Plus there are special sections on dwarf conifers, fragrant herbs, ornamental grasses, Heath and Heather and other plants that perform wonderfully as ground cover.
Covering Ground reminds us to use native foliage plants in our gardens.  They are both stunning and sturdy.
I found this Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny Spurge) cheerfully brightening a dark garden
before spring had even arrived.  Wouldn't it look lovely in your garden?

In the final section of the book, Barbara shares practical knowledge about how to tackle site preparation, the very real economics of purchasing and propagating plants, and, finally, how to plant, edge and maintain large areas of ground cover.

Every time I read Covering Ground, I’m inspired to introduce new ground covers to my garden and pay closer attention to ones I already love.  Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ is my recent favorite!

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