Any garden will look more interesting with some variation in the height of the plants. By all means include some tall plants but don’t forget how attractive and useful ground-cover planting can be, covering the soil with good-looking foliage plus, in some cases, flowers or berries.
Some ground-cover plants are available as ‘bare root’ plants, lifted from a field and ready for putting in to the ground whilst they are dormant. Now is a great time to buy them, ready to plant during suitable weather over the coming months.
Ground-cover plants are also often available in potted form, especially the smaller, less woody plants. These can be planted now too, or – as their roots are well-encased in compost – at any time of the year, though for best results avoid extremely cold and wet weather or the very hottest and driest period in summer.
A ground-cover bed is an excellent way to reduce your gardening workload – once planted, it needs little maintenance and almost looks after itself. It will need watering during the first year or two, especially in dry weather, so that the roots can establish.
One of the best uses for ground cover is on a steep slope, where access is difficult or even dangerous. Once installed, a ground cover-clad slope will be simpler to look after than a grassy one.
Sloping gardens or windswept spots can suffer soil-slippage or erosion if left unplanted. The roots of your ground-cover planting will help secure the soil and the stems and foliage will help protect the soil surface.
Ground cover will also prevent weeds from thriving, by starving them of light and providing competition in open spaces.
For best effect choose plants which are evergreen and so hold their leaves throughout the year.
A ground-cover plant such as Cotoneaster horizontalis lets you enjoy attractive berries as well as the neat foliage. Ground-cover planting like this will often offer a useful source of shelter to local wildlife and food for berry eaters too.
Sometimes it can be difficult to spot suitable ground-cover plants unless the nursery or garden centre has a designated area for them, so, when searching out plants always carefully read the information provided. Ideally you want those where the stated height is smaller than the stated spread – it is outwards not upwards you are after! Look for clues in the plants’ Latin names too – those with words suggesting spread out or horizontal are often useful e.g. prostrata (prostrate), horizontalis (horizontal), repens (creeping).
BOX: Twelve Great Ground Cover Plants
Taxus baccata ‘Repens Aurea’ , Hypericum calycinum moserianum, Hedera, Lonicera pileata, Pernettya mucronata, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’, Euonymus fortuneii, Ceanothus prostrates thyrsiflorus var.repens, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster ‘Gnom’, Vinca
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