No-one likes a bald spot right? For any garden big or small there are going to be spots where you might appreciate a plant that will take over like a blanket. This provides cover and interest, but also helps to stop weeds proliferating. These are the scrubby areas next to a building or beside the driveway where the ground is parched or sloped, or stony and poor. That’s where a ground cover plant comes into its own.
Here is a list of 7 plants I’ve spotted in the garden this month that need little encouragement and get stuck into the dusty corners or shady spots.
The first favourite here is Periwinkle and now that I’ve started noticing it here I see it everywhere. My favourite use of this plant is just around the corner on a sloped bank beside the road. You can imagine the pain of trying to mow this angle if it was grass, but good old Periwinkle has covered the lot!
Go Periwinkle Go!!!
Periwinkle is a creeping plant with pretty (often blue) flowers. In between it’s foliage its rather like spaghetti and everywhere its spaghetti arms touch the ground it grows a new plant. So it might not always be a gardener’s first choice (because it gets about a bit), but if that isn’t ground cover then what is?
I have one particular corner of the garden where, every now and then, it goes rogue and turns into a crazy bed of silly string and needs hacking back. If you are happy to do this and love it whilst it’s behaving itself, then all is well.
Oddly the two images above are only metres apart in the garden. The well behaved plants are in a scrubby bit of earth by a barn and the wild plants are in a bed, which has really lovely soil. I’m assuming that the crazy Periwinkle is super charged, jacked up on the most delicious soil.
I’ve stripped a lot of it out of that bed and dug up a few as an experiment. I’ve planted them next to the barn in another crummy bald spot and I’ve also taken cuttings of the spaghetti and planted those. I’ve cut where there is a node and pushed the node in to the ground hoping it will grow roots. It doesn’t seem to need much encouragement, but I have been watering daily and hope that they will eventually cover that area, as nothing else grows there, not even the grass reaches this barren spot.
There are a couple of other successful ‘cover-ups’ going on in the garden. One of my all time favourites is the Rose Campion (see Garden Heroes). I have one flower bed alongside the drive which is super dry and this hot pink little plant seems very happy there, but so many other plants keel over in a frazzled heap.
This took no more effort than noticing when the existing plant’s seed heads were rattling and ready to shake and then shaking them up and down the entire border. This was far more successful than I ever imagined and there is now a long snake of these plants from one end to the other. What’s particularly great about these biennials is in the first year they come up and are just leaf, they still look lovely and fill up the border very well. I don’t in the least bit mind plants taking over an area if I like them. In fact the more the merrier.
Another happy colonisation is a different campion, this time Red Campion. A favourite wildflower. There is one particular bald patch in another part of the garden, again next to a barn. This area is all bricks, stones and dusty, poor soil. If you try to break it with a fork or spade it just bounces back in your face. I’ve tried scattering a few different seeds in this part of the garden, then for the first time last year noticed the Red Campion coming out fighting. After those flowers went to seed I collected a lot and scattered them generously. This year rather than a blank wall and bald patch I have a huge cushion of Red Campion setting the scene against an ancient rose, which up until this point was the only inhabitant of that corner. I’m looking forward to seeing them all in flower.
This one is Bergenia. I had to look it up with the Plant Snap app on my iPhone and a bit of googling. I prefer the name Elephant’s Ears, which is great. There are lots of different types too choose from and so far the patches of this have had little care. I only snip the flowers off once they have died back and occasionally fish out a particularly manky leaf. I’ve earmarked this patch for some mulch next Spring, but that is as much as I am planning to do and they flower at this time every year.
This sunny perennial is one of the first and very welcome flowers that pops up in the late Spring / early Summer. It’s bright yellow flowers seem to climb higher and shine brighter with every week that passes. The mass of flower heads deepen and gets thicker. I love these and always look forward to seeing their happy little faces. Again these have spread over years with no effort or encouragement from me.
I am pretty sure this Lungwort is ‘Leopard’ because of the spots (of course). It pops up every year and I do nothing to encourage it. My plan for these this year is to divide the clumps I have and encourage it up one of the long borders alongside the drive. This border is in the shade of a high wall and it seems to like it there, so bring it on!
I love Wild Geranium. It’s the backbone of half the garden and there are so many little variations. This ruff of Geranium appears every year and over the Winter dies back to the little twiggy bits you can see poking out from the bottom. At that point I roughly chop it back with garden shears. I love how lush it is when it suddenly reappears at this time of year and that it provides a petticoat to this large shrub by the side of the driveway. The shrub is quite a spiky fellow and hard to prune. We have a bit of a love hate relationship if I am honest so the bed of flowers sweetens him up.
|Periwinkle||A perennial with spaghetti style stems. I’m transplanting this to the most bare and barren patches in the garden to see if it can cover them. So far the results are good.|
|Rose Campion||A biennial plant so it grows leaves in the first year and flowers the second year. It won’t last forever so I’ll make sure I shake seeds about for new plants and to give it a helping hand.|
|Red Campion||A wildflower seed. The RHS describes this is as: “A flower of hedgerows and semi-shaded places.” It sounds perfect to me. All that was required here was buying a pack of seeds, choosing a spot and then collecting more seeds from the plants that appeared and scattering them around.|
|Elephant’s Ears||A perennial. I’ve done nothing with this plant so far other than cut back the dead flower heads when they’ve gone over and pick out some of the more manky looking leaves. One very large patch is starting to look a bit tired, so I’ll add mulch next Spring.|
|Leopard’s Bane||A perennial. In terms of care: Zero so far…|
|Lungwort||A perennial. In terms of care: Zero so far… I’ll divide and make more plants in the Autumn.|
|Wild Geranium||A perennial with magic powers! This one has to get just one more paragraph about how great it is as a backdrop to so much of the garden. If there are bald patches in the borders I dig a bit of this magical flower up, loosely separate it in chunks and plug it in to the ground where I want it to grow and it does.|
One last thing and a new one for here: I have a little corner of the garden which is in partial shade and there isn’t much going on, so I’m adding a new plant (or three of them actually) to build in some structure. Right now this corner is pretty much all weeds. I’m trying out Lily Turf (Liriope Muscari). My new trio of Lily Turf arrives in June. I’ll report back…