Covering ground

I am surprised, and pleased, that a small patch of spring planted Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) survived several weeks of heat when this seemed in question, and now appears to be growing after weeks of flooding rains. The native spurge is unexciting, but in recent years I’ve been inspired to cover every small area of open ground, with ordinary plants, or not, so I’m happy that Allegheny spurge has taken hold after a slow start.

It is not necessary that every plant in the garden makes one jump for joy. Some must do the dirty work, though the foliage of the spurge is pleasant enough and there will be a brief period when it flowers. In this densely shaded, dry ground, the more vigorous Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) would be less challenging, but I’m happy to give this native a chance.

The intent in covering ground is to cut down on as much weeding as possible. If ground is not covered, there are weeds, and if I live long enough I hope to cut my labor by half. Already, weeding and other chores are half of, say ten years ago, when there was more enthusiasm for such things. Certainly, there will always be some weeds, but cutting a substantial share of what I do now is good reason for planting, and of course, some will be treasures and not only practical.

The humble, native False Solomon’s Seal is more ornamental in richer ground than positioned several inches from the trunk of a very tall red maple. I am also likely to plant other non-native Solomon’s Seals since these grow splendidly in dry shade.

Encouraged by this success, I’ll plant more of the spurge in September, along with trilliums and False Solomon’s Seals (Maianthemum racemosum, above, that now grows wild in less obvious spots in the garden) in the shade beneath the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla, below). I proudly proclaim the magnolia (to anyone who will listen) to be superior to ones seen in splendid, long established and well funded gardens visited this summer along the Washington state coast. This is the single plant that can be claimed as superior to ones growing in northwest gardens, and I suppose that much like evergreen magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) that thrive in the heat of the southeast (where they are native), this deciduous magnolia also prefers Virginia’s heat and humidity. While I cannot match the lushness of the coastal gardens, at least I can brag on this one tree.

In fact, many plants are better suited to this area than the coolness of the northwest. Our native dogwood (Cornus florida) is not at its best out west, and many hollies and azaleas thrive with more heat and humidity.

Also, here there is water. Recently, too much of it, but gardens in the northwest must be irrigated, and here, not so much. I’ve never had a thought about irrigating this garden, and rarely water anything, though occasionally at planting if conditions are dry. No doubt, the recent rainfall saved the Allegheny spurge from my neglect.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Periwinkle (Vinca major) is a naturalized weed in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I should have known better than to plant it in the parkstrip where I lived in town many years ago. It sort of does the dirty work of keeping weeds down, but it is rather tired by this time of year When it looks good, it tends to flop onto the sidewalk. There would have been better choices. It would be difficult to get rid of now.

    1. Dave says:

      Long ago I planted Vinca minor and a variety of variegated ivies. All have performed well, if occasionally a bit too aggressively. I would not remove these potential invasives, but I now prefer ground covers that are less vigorous.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        Vinca major is the invasive one for us. Vinca minor is much more docile, and does not seem to seed. Ivy is off limits, although it is already everywhere.

  2. Linus says:

    Have you tried some of the fancier Allegheny spurge?

    The ones I planted in straight clay did not do well. I may try again, but in a raised beds where my Japanese maples are located. Ideas for other ground cover under Japanese maples? Right now, I have some ophiopogon and sagina (and Agepodium which I’m trying to remove). May try some saxifraga and Allegheny spurge.

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve planted only root cuttings of the native Allegheny spurge that are very inexpensive. I purchase one each of lots of plants, so unless a ground cover would spread quickly it wouldn’t fit the way I buy. My oldest ground cover plantings are Vinca minor and variegated ivies, but more recently I’ve planted a variety of sedums, and black and dwarf mondos. Several small leafed hostas have spread nicely, and also a variety of smaller sedges (Carex).

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