In some ways, ground cover is a dubious term. As the term is commonly used, it means a low-growing nonwoody perennial plant that sprawls across a wide area. Meadows are a special type of ground cover; see Chapter 19 for more on them. The idea of ground covers seems to be twofold:
■ ✓ To play the role of lawn, visually and sometimes functionally. ✓ To outcompete weeds for a carefree sward of greenery and flowers.
These ideas are lovely, and in some situations they actually work. At other times, the solution becomes the problem because of poor plant selection. Tread carefully in the world of ground covers, and find out what really succeeds before committing to a plan of action.
The main pitfalls of the ground-cover approach have to do with the nature of the chosen plants. Following the "right plant, right place" dictum can result in a successful, more-or-less-bulletproof planting. But a careless choice can create a disaster. Here are the major ills of common approaches:
✓ Weeds: Weeds show up through underground or aboveground runners and by way of seeds. If the ground-cover planting is too low to the ground or contains bare spots, weeds and germinating weed seeds can get right to the sunlight and take control quickly. At that point, you face laborious hand-weeding or the use of herbicides.
The sustainable approach is to choose plants that are at least 1 foot tall so they shade the soil and keep weeds down. Use a drip system to irrigate instead of keeping the soil surface constantly moist with an overhead sprinkler system, which creates a perfect environment for seed germination. Choose drought-tolerant plants and water little or not at all; seeds germinate only during the wet season.
✓ Invasiveness: Many ground covers are viney and try to grow out of bounds. Some, like ivy, are so aggressive that you'd swear they're going to grow into the next zip code. With plants like this, there's nothing you can do except keep cutting them back.
Pick plants that have a determinate growth habit, meaning that they grow to a certain relatively predictable size and stay there. Plant them far enough from edges to eliminate the need for trimming. In other words, keep a plant that grows to 4 feet in diameter at least 2 feet from the edge of the bed it's in.
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How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.