Evergreen Ground Cover For All Seasons

KruusFrontWalk10:11_2Evergreen ground cover has endless uses, from serving as a lawn substitute to creating a green cascade on a wooded hillside. During summer ground cover can create a soft backdrop for other plants; during wintertime it becomes a primary part of the garden while other plants are dormant or without leaves. Whether a lush accent at the base of a tree or planted en masse to form a carpet, evergreen ground cover provides a visual break from bare soil and dark sky.

Easy-to-grow ground covers

Some steppable ground covers, especially those that thrive in full sun, like the famous Woolly Thyme, are not picky about soil conditions and need little water. But most ground cover plants used as part of a garden plan need ideal conditions to grow vigorously, spread and fill in. For instance, Pachysandra terminalis (pictured) thrives in shade, but also needs fertile soil and some water to grow well. With glossy green leaves, it forms a 6-inch high pillow on top of the ground with surface roots that need rich soil to do well. Its green stems and shiny leaves create an interesting texture that draws the eye. Gaultheria procumbens also looks handsome at this time of year with its red berries and glossy dark green leaves. Note that, come spring and summer, most hardy bulbs and perennials will grow up through ground cover.

Containing and maintaining ground covers

When selecting ground cover, beware of invasive plants that are hard to control. Invasive ground covers typically tolerate poor soil conditions, which is why they are so tempting to plant in problem areas of the garden. They can, in fact, be an asset in large shady areas like a woodland garden where they will fill in at the base of trees where little else may grow. The less-aggressive Vinca ‘Illumination” has stunning golden variegation, making it a real standout in the landscape .

But be prepared. The more invasive ground covers must be carefully selected and completely contained. Once a ground cover gets away from you, you face an on going battle to keep it at bay. Even favorites like Vinca minor can easily overstay its welcome. Once its roots are entangled with other plants or a rockery, it can only be controlled with continuous maintenance.

Properly selected and maintained, ground cover can play an important role in your landscape. Check your garden this winter and see if you have any bare spots that would benefit from ground cover.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.




Conifers in Containers

Dwarf HinokiThe change of seasons presents opportunities for dramatic new container garden compositions. Dwarf conifers can be the perfect pick-me-up for sparse-looking containers.

You’ll find that conifers are durable and easy to grow. They need little care and most dwarf conifers grow so slowly that they can thrive for years before outgrowing their spaces.

Conifers come in an array  of dramatic shapes, colors, and complex textures. Colors range from blue and green to yellow and even white variegation. There are dense, compact conifers shaped like globes or buns, ones with luxurious, fern-like foliage that curves and twists, and others with delicate needles that weep and drape. Some conifers look soft and fluffy while others sport stiff, sturdy needles. Whatever shapes or colors you choose, you’ll find that conifers really “pop” against winter skies and glow in the beams of accent lighting.

Dwarf conifers are readily available in most nurseries at this time of year, so now is a great time to update the pots on your patio.

Some of my favorite mini conifers include:Dwarf Conifer

Chamacyparis obtusa ‘Minama’ – Minima Hinoki Cypress. A compact mound with rich, dark-green spray-like foliage dotted with grass-green new growth.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ – White Pygmy Dwarf False Cypress. A petite cushion of soft yellow-green sprays of needles.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Minuta’ – Minuta Canadian Hemlock. A tight-mounding cushion with a tiny version of the needles of the giant Canadian Hemlock.

Dwarf and mid-size conifers are also wonderful garden specimens that add evergreen structure to the winter garden and take center stage in the dormant season.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.




Water thoroughly and keep your garden healthy

Especially this year, our typically dry July, August and September quickly erase any reserves stored below the surface of the soil.  Fine-tuning watering techniques can not only conserve water but also create healthier plants.

Keys to watering:

  • My answer is to water deeply and less frequently.  This can be accomplished most easily with either a drip or soaker irrigation system.  The drip system can be set to water individual plants, shrubs, or trees.  The water requirements of different plants can be met by using different sized emitters, and by placing several emitters on large shrubs or trees.
  • A soaker system will water the whole garden evenly and can be hidden underneath mulch.
  •  Hand watering is also an option, but make sure that the water is penetrating deeply.
  • The final way to irrigate is with an old-fashioned sprinkler head.  Make sure that the spray hits all areas and that you leave it on long enough to water deeply.

Tips for watering:

  •  Getting water to the bottom of the root zone promotes drought tolerance by keeping the roots deep in the soil, instead of on the surface where they can dry out quickly. Water should soak in deep enough so all roots are thoroughly wet.  The first few times you water, test to see how deep it goes.  After a few tries, you’ll know how long the water needs to run.
  • Always water during the cooler part of the day to lessen evaporation.  Nighttime or early morning is best.
  • Make sure you mulch.
  • Plant densly enough so plant roots are not overheated by the sun.

As your garden matures and plants become well established, you’ll be able to cut back the frequency of watering.

Michael Muro Garden Design offers garden planning and comprehensive landscape design in Washington State.