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Garden Talk: Top 10 groundcover plants

Great for carpeting bare ground, preventing weeds and defining the front of a border, groundcover plants are a must-have in the garden. Here are my top 10, grown for…

Foliage

Asarum europaeum (Wild ginger)

For a lush contemporary look this is unbeatable, with glossy green heart-shaped leaves that spread to form an evergreen carpet. It prefers a moist, shady spot.  Pachysandra terminalis, which copes better with sun, also forms a dense mat of evergreen leaves with white flowers in early summer.

Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’ (bugle)

If you’re after a bit more colour, try this spreading evergreen, grown predominantly for its unusual bronze-purple foliage – which look great with other rusty coloured ferns and grasses. The short spikes of deep blue flowers in early spring are a bonus. It’s happy in sun or part shade, provided there’s enough water.

Stachys Byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’ (Lamb’s ears)

With spreading velvety silver leaves this is great for softening the edge of a well-drained, sunny border – it’s also very drought tolerant once established.  Stachys have purple flower spires in summer but this neat variety rarely flowers.

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (Black mondo)

A low-growing, dark-leaved, grass-like perennial this looks great planted in a drift. Looks good with bright green grasses or ferns and contrasts well with silvery plants in full sun or partial shade.

Flowers

Viola cornuta ‘Alba Group’

This is on my wish list – it’s attractive and looks good in most settings with fresh semi-evergreen foliage and masses of pure white flowers from May to August. It’s ideal for filling gaps at the front of a border in sun or part shade.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

With a mass of large violet flowers from June through to autumn, this is excellent for bringing colour to the front of a border – although it dies down completely in the winter. The handsome marbled leaves are attractive too. It’s best in full sun but copes with some shade. Geranium sanguineum var. striatum is a more compact geranium with very pretty pink flowers and delicate leaves.

For foliage and flowers

Saxifraga × urbium (London pride)

This pretty plant is having a come back – and for good reason. It’s tough, with rosettes of spreading evergreen leaves and a haze of tiny pink flowers on slender stems in spring and early summer. Happy in semi-shade, it’s perfect for edging borders and suppressing weeds.

Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’

A lovely spreading groundcover plant with semi-evergreen bronze leaves and tiny bright yellow flowers held high above the foliage in spring. Tough and shade tolerant, it’s lovely with ferns in a woodland setting or under deciduous trees. Epimedium × youngianum’Niveum’is a pretty white flowering variety.

Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s mantle)

This is a must for any garden with large scalloped-edged leaves that catch shining water droplets, and a froth of lime green flowers from spring to summer. Deciduous so they’ll disappear in winter, they look fab in the summer with purples.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

Another plant I’d love in my garden, this has striking leaves – silvery with dark green veins. It’s shade tolerant so is great for lighting up shady areas under trees or near pathways and it has the added bonus of wonderful spring colour with sprays of forget-me-not-like blue flowers in Spring.

This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of SE22 magazine.