Yes, we know it’s still winter. But for gardeners, we’ve got spring on our minds. You can start to plan your yard for the warmer months now, determining what will go in which quadrant — whether your space is a few inches or a few acres.
Whatever your garden situation is, don’t neglect thinking about groundcover. Groundcover plants are some of the hardest working pieces of greenery in your yard. Groundcover is the low-to-the-ground plants that work to protect your soil.
They’re an integral part of how a yard looks. Green grass is one of the most common groundcovers. Imagine yards from Maine to Oregon without green grass. You’re imagining hard, muddy patches devoid of any physical beauty at all, aren’t you?
When you start to consider your groundcover, make a list of what tasks you want it to perform in your yard. If you’re in an area with lots of precipitation, you want groundcover to prevent excess runoff and to warm the soil. That’s the role grass plays in a lot of lawns. It’s not there just for show. If you’re in an area of drought, you want groundcover that conserves any precipitation coming your way.
Groundcover can also play a role in the health of your soil in other ways. Earthworms, for example, aerate soil so gardeners have to do less work. If you want them to do their job, you need a groundcover that will let them do it. Groundcover can take up empty space where weeds might be tempted to take root, like the areas on the edge of paths or between pavers. Groundcover also cushions foot traffic, so people and animals don’t injure the soil.
The last major task of groundcover is aesthetic. Groundcover can be beautiful and appealing. Choose your spring planting groundcovers for what you want to see in your yard. It can be flowering and beautiful in itself, or a neutral backdrop for your larger flowering plants. You can vary your groundcovers, so part draws attention to itself and acts as a harmonizing neutral. Some groundcovers attract birds, which can add to the attraction of your garden.
Don’t neglect sensory roles other than the eye. Some groundcovers smell wonderful and add to the appeal of your yard.
Finally, although you’re choosing for spring planting, if you want to see flowering plants throughout the warmer seasons, choose a variety that bloom in spring, summer and fall.
Be sure to look up your climate in the United States Department of Agriculture zone map for plant hardiness. Choose groundcover fit for your region. Otherwise, you may inadvertently choose a type that will fail to thrive or perish in cold, heat or thirst.
Yes, it’s a traditional choice. But moss is very worth thinking about as a groundcover. It keeps the soil cool and aerated. It prevents oversaturation of your soil. If you live in a wet climate, it will thrive. It’s easy to grow and maintain as long as you get enough precipitation. Finally, moss provides a neutral but lovely green color as a part of your yard.
Violets are a low-to-the-ground flower whose color and scent will enliven your Spring. They love rain. Choose the “Dark Freckles” violet, Viola sororia, for a fast-growing and easy to care for flower. These type of violets can combine with mosses for a wonderful woodland part of your yard.
Didn’t we tell you some groundcovers will delight your sense of smell? Enter mint, which will make your yard smell delightful on a midsummer’s day. Mint is an herb. Choose the type called Corsican Mint, Mentha requienii, if you want small mauve-colored flowers in summer. Mint will thrive in the shade with up to a few hours of sun.
Sage is another wonderful aromatic herb that’s easy to grow and tolerates water well. Choose Salvia Solid Gold (Solid Gold Sage) if you want to pinch off some to use in vegetables, stuffing or cooking meats. Sage will show smaller blue flowers in the Spring.
Some flowering groundcover not only exhibits aesthetic appeal to the eye but will attract birds. The Hummingbird Trumpet is a colorful flower whose shape and nectar specifically attract hummingbirds. If you’ve ever sat mesmerized by the hummingbird’s ability to go up, down and around like a small helicopter, this could be the groundcover for you. Try the ‘Sky Island Orange’ variety for a graceful trumpet-like orange flower that blooms in the autumn, when hummingbirds migrate.
Groundcover plays multiple roles in a healthy garden — conserving water, protecting the ground and promoting soil health. They also make gardens look and smell beautiful. Enjoy choosing the many varieties available for your spring planting.