(A selection of plants suitable for ground cover)

In these days of increased leisure-time most of us will probably turn to the garden for relaxation and enjoyment, but all too often we find ourselves weeding, hoeing, forking, digging, in order to keep the garden tidy and our enjoyment of the garden is reduced to the minimum

We must, therefore, try lo reduce, or cut out altogether, the blood, sweat and tears. Weedkillers will doubtless be necessary for the control of weeds, but when the shrubs have grown and developed, machinery cannot be used and weedkillers would need very careful application in order to avoid serious damage.

In the wild all this is taken care of by nature, each plant grows in positions in which it is happiest, together with its surrounding vegetation. It covers the ground with a dense mat of greenery, thus conserving moisture and adding humus continually to the soil by way of decaying vegetation, this is what we should try and achieve in a garden.

In planting our garden we should plant dominant plants first, e.g., trees. Secondly, we should give depth and contrast, e.g., shrubs; finally, we should fill in using small shrubs and perennials to give us ground cover. In a garden planted with a careful selection of trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs a gentle and harmonious effect can be achieved, something approaching nature itself with the eventual decrease in hoeing and weeding.

When deciding on the choice of plants for ground cover, the ideal arrangement is to choose a selection of shrubs and herbaceous plants. Many shrubs will produce their own ground cover shrubs with a dome-shaped and spreading habit, for example Choisya lernata, Senecio greyii, Mahonia Japonica, Viburnum mariesii; these planted on their own could give a dull effect, but interplanted with herbaceous plants like Hostas, Foxgloves, Begonias, Meconopsis, etc., a most pleasing effect can be achieved. A complete cover may not be achieved for three or four years, but nevertheless choose plants that will give colour and contrast for the longest possible time. Flowers may last for a few weeks only, but if the plants have interesting foliage they could remain attractive for six months or more if they are deciduous for twelve months if they are evergreen.

It is important, when planning a border that will look after itself, to know the ultimate shape and size of the subjects to be planted. The larger selected shrubs will eventually outgrow the ground cover plants, but there will not be any bare patches left between them.

Equally important is the choice of plants for ground cover purposes. It would be a great mistake to plant a variegated Dead Nettle (Lamium) in front of the border next to your favourite Daphne cneorum; not only would the weeds be suppressed, but also the Daphne. Plants such as Hostas, Bergenias, Lilies, etc., should be planted between rampant, invasive ground covers, so preventing them from running into one another and eventually smothering each other, producing an untidy result.

Strong growing plants, e.g., Lamium, Hypericum calycinum. Ivies. Pachysandras, etc., should be planted at the back of the border under trees or shrubs with an upright habit, such as lilacs. Philadelphus virginale, various Rose species, Spiraeas, etc.

If the most pleasing and aesthetic effect is to be obtained with the virtual elimination of any hoeing and weeding, etc., adequate preparation of the ground is essential. All persistent weeds should be eradicated; annual weeds should be dealt with by contact weedkillers, like Weedol, before planting is done.


If plants that are normally grown up some kind of support are deprived of this support they will start trailing along the ground and start forming a dense covering of foliage and flower producing excellent ground cover. Using climbers for covering the ground is particularly beneficial for large areas of ground and difficult banks. Once established they will do a satisfactory job very quickly. Clematis montana, spooneri, tangutica, the more vigorous large flowered hybrids such as those belonging to the Jackmanii group, rambler roses particularly Minnehaha and Sanders White can look very effective when tumbling over banks. Evergreen cover can be achieved using Ivies; there are many varieties suitable for this purpose in particular. Hedera canariensis ‘Variegata’ whose bold green and cream foliage is particularly effective even in full shade. Hydrangea petiolaris (scandens) given a good soil in full sun or partial shade, will reward the gardener with its large white ‘lace cap’ flowers in summer. Vitis coignettiae with its large architectural foliage and brilliant autumn colour is another plant suitable for ground cover. It is important when using these plants that they are given a large area to develop and for that reason are only suitable for larger gardens. On a smaller scale the evergreen Honeysuckles such as Lonicera ‘Aureo Reticulata’, ‘Halliana’ and ‘Flexuosa’ would be very useful, the prime consideration when using climbing plants for ground cover work is that they are given ample room to spread; their rampant vigorous growth could be a source of trouble if they are planted too close to smaller shrubs and herbaceous plants.

CLEMATIS species


HEDERA canariensis ‘Variegata’

colchica ‘Dentata Aurea’

(Ivies) in variety

HYDRANGEA petiolaris

LONICERA japonica ‘Aurea Reticulata’

‘Halliana’ VITIS coignettiae


JUNIPERUS communis ‘Hornibrookii’ communis ‘Repanda’ horizontalis ‘Glauca’ media ‘Mint Julep’

JUNIPERUS media ‘Pfitzerana’

media ‘Pfrtzerana Aurea’ sabina tamariscifolia squamata ‘Blue Carpet’



NOZOMI (Shrub)


SWANY (Shrub)


A most important section of plants for use as ground cover. They either produce large clumps over a period of years making a mass of foliage such as the various Hostas, or they produce a carpet of growth by rooting along the ground as they grow, for example the ‘Lambs ears’ iSlachys lanata). Perennials are very effective when used in conjunction with shrubs to give a good covering effect with their contrasting foliage and flowers.

HELLEBORUS corsicus foetidus orientalis HOSTA in variety SEDUM ‘Autumn Joy’

ACANTHUS spinosus ALCHEMILLA mollis ASTILBES in variety BERGENIA in variety EUPHORBIA epithymoides



Alpines can be doubly useful for ground cover purposes; in the rock garden the ultimate achievement is to cover the ground as quickly as possible

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