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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Gardening* TIP OF THE WEEK* - Ground cover Plants

Evergreen ground cover plants are most often low growing plants with a trailing or clump forming habit. Ground cover plants are one of the best ways to cover an area of garden that may be requiring greenery, is weed infested, a particularly difficult area of the garden to get into to cultivate or hard to maintain area.

Evergreen ground cover plants are an excellent natural way to suppress weed growth in your garden, as well as adding to the soils ability to retain water in dry weather, reduce soil cooling and deter rain compaction to soil during wet / cold weather. Evergreen ground cover plants will also help in the prevention of soil erosion on banks / sloped areas where soil requires stability. Evergreen ground cover plants generally have fast root and leaf growth, along with many species that grow underground stems, or clump forming varieties that also give fast soil stability.

Planting your ground cover plants according to the soil situation is important to gain good plant growth. Many alpine type plants require a more rocky soil with higher acidity. Conifer varieties will require these types of soils where other species may require a more sandy clay loam soil. Lower growing Phormium varieties will thrive as a ground cover in most soil situations, although they do seem to like any clay soils in New Zealand.

Evergreen groundcovers are ideal for planting in areas of the garden where there is low light, where lawns will not survive, underneath trees and in areas of full shade or particularly poor soils. Varieties of moss will grow well in shaded garden or low light and will tolerate low foot traffic. Most evergreen groundcover plants require smaller amounts of fertiliser, usually a handful of general fertilizer at the time of planting. Compared with annuals and heavily flowering perennials, evergreen groundcovers generally have the bonus of less maintenance.

Some evergreen ground cover plants to note:

Liriope muscari-
Thin, strap like, mid to dark green leaves with low gloss. Purple flower spikes to 30cm in some cases. Liriope muscari is an excellent landscaping border plant, brightly coloured flowers as well as evergreen leaves allow the Liriope to blend into many planting schemes. Prefeing a dry soil situation, Liriope is very useful in hot climates to achieve a green look all year. There is also a variegated variety available.

Leptinella calcarea-
An endangered New Zealand plant and will grow for many home gardeners and landscape gardeners alike. Leptinella calcarea has fine, feathery, low growing, distinctly coloured foliage sometimes turning very bronze/purple, with small, bright yellow flowers.

Ophiopogon jaburan-
Commonly known as Mondo Grass, is a clump forming, lawn mow-able, evergreen ground cover plant that prefers some shade. Fast growing, under ground spreading perennial with strap like, mid-dark green leaves, white to purple flowers, followed with violet fruits on spikes.

Ophiopogon jaburan as well as O. japonicus prefer moist well drained soils, and usually require fertilizer application when planted. Try to use weed mat to control plant growth where you require the edges of the groundcover to finish, as Ophiopogon species can be very invasive toward the garden if left to grow.
Note: Some herbicide sprays can be used around and through Ophiopogon to kill weeds. The Opiopogon is immune to some spray settings. Roundup will not kill them in lower doses.

Rosmarinus officinalis-
Commonly known as Rosemary, will grow in dry soils as well as moist soils as long as they are well drained. Rosemary will trail across the soil and cover large areas in very little time, providing dark foliage and bright purple flowers.

Rosemary will provide fast erosion control and stabilise new garden areas that may be on steeper landscaping sites. Rosemary will shelter from wind for younger plants that are establishing and also help to control insect pests.
Ideal in any herb garden in both containers and wild, heavenly scented in summer and a culinary delight anytime of the year.
Note: Keep trimmed regularly to help avoid Rosemary becoming too invasive.

To see a range of Rosemary varieties please follow the link below:
http://www.mediterraneangardensociety.org/plants/Rosmarinus.officinalis.html

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