Cover-ups for the Garden

Groundcovers can be very low maintenance and aesthetically a very worthwhile addition to your garden, but they can be a lot of work and very unsightly if you choose or lay it out wrong. Today I want to give you a few tips on how to make groundcovers work in your favour, so that you dont make a lot of unecessary work for yourself.

Before planting any groundcovers, make sure the soil is very weed free. If its the kind of soil that as soon as you turn your back weeds suddenly appear from nowhere, then I suggest that you put down a good layer of garden mulch first. This will help keep the weeds to a minimum while your groundcovers grow across the top of the soil. Don't think that your groundcover will suppress the weeds without your help. I re-iterate to all of my landscape clients; for the first year that they must be very diligent. Let no weeds grow and seed on the ground where ground hugging plants are growing. If they do, then the weeds will come up amongst the foliage of the groundcover and then it becomes really time consuming and difficult to get the weeds out.

Having a lovely groundcover in a garden with weeds all through it is very unsightly - it certainly won't add any beauty to your garden and the garden will very quickly become high maintenance. If you do get some weeds popping up, try and cut them out underneath the ground with a knife. Don't just pull the top off it and think that the problem weed will go away. What you will find that the root system of the weeds will continue to grow and spread even further, so before you know it the weed has managed to spread throughout all of the desirable groundcover and then in the end it beats you. The only way to get on top of the problem weed at this stage, is to pull out all of the plant and weeds and start again and there is not much pleasure in all of that.

If you want to use more than one type of groundcover in a garden, then you have to be very careful about which groundcovers you select. The reason for this is that if the two types grow towards each other and then eventually start to grow into one another, it can be very difficult to keep them apart. If allowed to intermingle through each other, then this can look very unsightly. One of the groundcovers will be more vigorous than the other and further down the track the garden is covered with something that looks like a real mess. I learnt the hard way myself on this very point. I planted our NZ native SCLERANTHUS BIFLORUS moss and another native groundcover called MUEHLENBECKIA AXILLARIS, thinking that they would grow happily in the same garden. This particular garden was very exposed to the weather elements - especially wind - and both groundcovers flourished extremely well. They did in fact look really effective in the same garden, but as much as I tried I couldnt keep them from growing through each other. In fact, the MUEHLENBECKIA very quickly started to come up all through the lovely moss and I could see very quickly that the moss was going to be strangled out altogether. I got out in this garden with a knife and quite a bit of labour and removed every last piece of the MUELENBECKIA, and now its so much easier for me to look after this particular garden.

Groundcovers that are good performers:

  • THYMUS EMERALD CARPET — beautifully fragrant foliage, extremely ground hugging, great between paving around the perennial/herb garden. Likes full sun and good drainage.
  • SCLERANTHUS BIFLORUS — a lush green moss that must have good drainage in the winter. Likes full sun and in the hot summer months likes to get a good water once a week. Looks very effective growing over stones and in a native garden.
  • STAR JASMINE — I rate this plant very highly. Will grow in full sun or full shade, darkest green foliage and beautifully fragrant white star shaped flowers for most of the summer months. A definite must near your summer entertaining area. Trim off once a year at 15cm high and this will keep it down reasonably close to the ground. Just as effective as a climber, so a very versatile plant for any low maintenance garden.
  • MONDO GRASS — A truely great dark green forest-like grass. Great under trees, amongst paving and once established, the only maintenance is to cut off the foliage once every four years. This will refresh the overall look. Available in tall and short varieties.
  • ROSEMARY LAVANDULACEA — A tried and true groundcover that likes full sun and good drainage. Very effective hanging over retaining walls, excellent drought tolerance. Blue flowers for much of the year.
  • AJUGA CHOCOLATE CHIP — Has an attractive chocolate coloured leaf, blue flowers in spring. Effective next to water features and amongst ferns and other shade loving plants.
  • SEDUM OGON — A succulent that definitely likes a dry shady position. Brightest yellow foliage. I have it in my garden growing very well amongst bromeleids. Needs very little soil to perform very well, but this one is not a sun lover like a lot of other succulents.

My advice is:

  • Select a groundcover thats going to thrive in the position that you want it to grow
  • Only use one type of groundcover
  • Keep the weeds away for the first 12 months while the groundcover spreads

Happy Gardening!


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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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