General Discussion:

Natural Groundcover ideas?

Messages posted to thread:

Carol20-Jul-01 03:49 PM EST 5a   
Ann20-Jul-01 07:20 PM EST 4b   
Brian @ P&P Plants20-Jul-01 08:32 PM EST 3   
Linda20-Jul-01 11:58 PM EST 2a   
Susan21-Jul-01 08:03 AM EST 6a   
21-Jul-01 10:59 AM EST   
Carol22-Jul-01 01:08 PM EST 5a   

Subject: Natural Groundcover ideas?
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 20-Jul-01 03:49 PM EST

We have a large wooded area behind our property which we are trying to develop in a natural way. It is zoned as floodplain. There is a small creek behind it which overflows following heavy rains. The area has some trees but is largely open. We want to plant groundcover(s) which would be suitable for full sun to partial shade. Ideally, they would encourage the local wildlife. We have squirrels, chipmunks, a few rabbits and lots of birds. Any suggestions of what to plant (and what not to plant) would be appreciated. We are in southern Ontario, north of Toronto. Thanks for any and all advice!

Subject: RE: Natural Groundcover ideas?
From: Ann
Zone: 4b
Date: 20-Jul-01 07:20 PM EST

Ajuga is a good all purpose groundcover and is not fussy where it is planted, it has nice low purple flowers in Spring. Wild strawberries would attract wildlife.

Subject: RE: Natural Groundcover ideas?
From: Brian @ P&P Plants
Zone: 3
Date: 20-Jul-01 08:32 PM EST

Ann has the best suggestion in you using wild strawberry. I use them and the grow fast and larger than in their natural setting. This is due to no competition, extra watering & fetilizer. They still produce fruit that is packed with flavor. To make transplants from the plants that are in the wilds, here is a suggestion on how to. Fill several small plant pots with a mix of peatmoss & perlite. Take thos pots and set under the runners of the Strawberry plants. Where there is a new plant growing on the runner, place that plant onto the potting mix in the pot, roots down of course. In a couple of weeks or sooner, those new plants will have rooted into the pot. Cut the runner between the pot and the mother plant that the runner came from. You can now transplant the new plants where you require them.

Subject: RE: Natural Groundcover ideas?
From: Linda
Zone: 2a
Date: 20-Jul-01 11:58 PM EST

In Alberta we have a number of nurseries that specialize in native plants, I'm sure ontario does too. Look at what is growing native in the area and plants more of the same.

Subject: RE: Natural Groundcover ideas?
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 21-Jul-01 08:03 AM EST

If this area is very vet, your best bet is to treat it as a bog and grow plants that like or tolerate high moisture levels. If, by ground cover, you mean low things, that may be too limiting but if you mean things that spread or form larger clumps and cover the ground, you will have more to chose from.

For wet/damp shade, ferns are the first thing that comes to mind and look lovely near creeks and waterways. Ostrich Fern is easy to find, is very tolerant of high moisture levels and will spread to cover the ground and has beautiful large fronds. It's a classic for wet woodlands - I have it in my 'wet corner' and it's doing great. I also have Mayapple there - it likes moist soil and shade too. Marsh Marigolds are also great for wet areas. I bought some to add to the ones that appeared from nowhere! Cardinal Flower is a native plant that likes moist soil and has bright red flowers in summer. It can be short-lived but, if it likes the area, will self-seed and colonize the area. Goatsbeard is another native plant that will grow in fairly moist soil. It has white astilbe-like flowers in early summer. Blue Flags are another native plant that grows in wet areas - use Japanese Irises or Siberian Irises (in the damp but not extremely wet areas) as a substitute as they're probably easier to find. Snowy Woodrush is a grassy looking plant that has pretty white fluffy 'flowers' in summer and likes moist shade although I don't know how well it would tolerate actual flooding. Variegated dogwood tolerates a high degree of moisture and 'Silverleaf' and 'Ivory Halo' add a stunning shrub element to my wet area.

You can turn this area into an unusual but very interesting garden. It can be a bit difficult to find plants but it helps if you know what you're looking for. The first thing I'd do is assess what is growing there already - don't remove everything and start from scratch. What is there already probably is things adapted for the conditions so identify them, determine which will enhance it as a garden, leave them and remove others that are less desirable and start building from there. I'd bet it'll turn into your most interesting garden! Two years ago when we moved to this house, my 'wet corner' was a mess of weeds and a large patch of boring pachysandra (which seens to grow anywhere, although not in the wettest area). This area is now turning into my favorite garden....

Subject: RE: Natural Groundcover ideas?
Date: 21-Jul-01 10:59 AM EST

Susan's advice is a good one. I have most of the plants she mentioned growing in my bog garden and they're all doing well. You may want to try growing Globeflower ("Trollius") has deep yellow flowers in late spring/early summer, and has a long flowering period. Lily of the Valley, Bog Rosemary does well.

Humber Nurseries, I find, is the best garden nursery I've been to in Toronto.

Subject: RE: Natural Groundcover ideas?
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 22-Jul-01 01:08 PM EST

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. Most of the area is actually quite dry, despite the creek below. We'd like most of the groundcover to be fairly low. I've started a couple of island beds into which I'm transplanting seedlings from my garden. The suggestions of seeing what is there already and checking plants native to the area also make good sense. I notice bits of ajuga already growing as well as a few tiarella. Good place to start! Thanks again.

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