January 27th, 2013
by Janet Clark
Groundcover is perhaps the most hardy category of plant. You can forget to water it for an extended time and it still keeps hanging in there. Some groundcover plants actually repel bugs, and insect infestations rarely do them in. They stay green until late in the season and often green up again early in the spring.
I like groundcover for its hardiness, but I especially appreciate its diverse beauty. Lamium alone has 40-40 different species; some, such as the ones in the photograph with pale green leaves bordered by dark green, have variegated foliage, and most have flowers that bloom in the spring, producing pink, white or yellow blossoms. Some species do better in full sun while others shine in the shade. Ajuga, or bugleweed, also has 40-50 species. Its leaves range from different shades of green to purple to silver to pink, and its blossoms come in blue, white, lavender and pink. I have some ajuga planted in my front yard, and it continued to thrive through November and well into December; while we’ve had a mild winter overall, that’s still pretty good.
Phlox are a lovely flowering groundcover that produces sweet-smelling pink, white or purple flowers early in the spring. Phlox do well in sun or partial shade. Another fragrant favorite: thyme. Creeping thyme provides a dense groundcover which releases a strong, pleasant scent when walked on. Thyme prefers full sun; it will live on less but might look a little spindly.
While some people don’t like lamb’s ear and find it too invasive, I think it’s a good choice for that out-of-the way spot with mediocre soil where you don’t really want to plant something fancy, but you don’t want a blank spot, either. Lamb’s ears are as soft as the name implies; they grow up to two feet tall and have purple flowers. They grow in sun or partial shade.
With hundreds of types of groundcover to choose from, it’s easy to add lots of interest to the yard and cut back on the amount of mowing you need to do, which helps the environment and frees up more time to dig in the garden!