Like bamboo, liriope, a dense, grasslike ground cover also called lilyturf, has two forms, clumping (Liriope muscari) and running (Liriope spicata). The former grows reasonably fast; the latter, sometimes unreasonably.
Ray also points out that in modern times, the concept of ground cover has evolved into something quite narrow.
"The Eastern deciduous forest at one time was a ground cover in that
trees covered the ground," he says, noting that "a squirrel could go
from pine tree to pine tree, without touching the ground, from the
Atlantic to the Mississippi.
"The size of a ground cover is limited only by your imagination,"
says Ray, who taught ornamental horticulture for two decades at Delaware
Valley College in Doylestown and is now on the staff of the Barnes
Foundation's Arboretum School in Merion.
Consider bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), an
eye-grabbing shrub that's wide and tall, as a ground cover. How about
'Golden Fleece' goldenrod or deutzia, Flower Carpet roses, or climbing
hydrangea that climbs across the yard?
"These are all great ground covers," Ray says.
Ball, author of Month-by-Month Gardening in Pennsylvania and
other gardening books, puts it simply: "Almost any plant can be a ground
cover. It doesn't have to be creepy, crawly, or low-growing."
Ball likes the idea of natives for ground covers and other uses. And she'd like more garden centers to label and promote them.
So which ground cover does Ball promote? A rather unusual one: moss,
which works especially well under trees. "Just look in the woods," she
Most people don't. Too bad.
Kevin Zaleski, chief executive officer of Classy Groundcovers in
Blairsville, Ga., which has been selling ground covers to growers for
more than 50 years, reports that English ivy, pachysandra, and vinca
have been his best-sellers, "by a wide margin, from Day 1," for more
than half a century.
Still, creative growers are ordering things like 'Black Scallop'
ajuga, dwarf junipers, and daylilies to sell as ground covers. "These
are popular with people who want the ease and fast-growing nature but a
different look," says Zaleski, whose own favorite ground cover is a
He likes astilbe.
"It's pretty rare to come across as a ground cover," he concedes. But
with those feathery plumes of white, pink, purple, and red, astilbe can
produce a ground-hugging cloud in dark shade.
"I love the foliage and flowers and it's maintenance-free. A lot of
people are tired of hostas and long to have something unusual," Zaleski
Talk about unusual.
Ray and Ball recently filled in their in-ground pool, with an eye
toward converting the space into a dining terrace ringed by gardens. And
what did they use to cover the old pool?
The most common ground cover of all - grass.
Read garden writer Virginia A. Smith's blog at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/
Contact garden writer Virginia A. Smith at 215-854-5720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See GROUND COVERS on F3