Consider Herbal Groundcovers

August 21, 2011 lawanda Newspaper Columns

When you hear the word “groundcover,” what is your immediate thought? Something to plant where grass won’t grow, maybe in a part of the yard you never visit or don’t want to mow? Boring, right?
Things are about to change! Consider planting an herbal ground cover – suitable for those areas mentioned above, as well as right up front in the best parts of your landscape.
There are many reasons to add an herbal groundcover to your landscape. They act as a living mulch (no more buying bags of wood chips every spring), keeping the soil consistently moist and shielding plant roots from fluctuating temperatures. They form a dense mat that makes it hard for weeds to take hold, and eliminate erosion. They require little water once established. Best of all, they add extra beauty and fragrance to your garden and make it uniquely yours.
Here are several ideas to get you started. These are all perennial plants that come back year after year.
Wooly thyme and creeping thyme are good choices for growing among pavers or stone walkways. They have tiny pink, lavender or purple flowers in spring. If they overgrow their designated area, they can be cut back with a scissors or just ripped back to where you want them. They do best in sunny spots.
Periwinkle is a good choice for sloping ground, but does just as well on flat ground in a shady or semi-shady area. In spring it has pretty whorled purple flowers. It may grow up to twelve inches tall in spring, but generally flattens down later in the summer.
Roman chamomile grows to about 6-12 inches tall in sun or semi-shade. It has a sweetly scented, finely cut bright green leaves with a fruity, apple fragrance and in summer produces daisy-like flowers. Plant them 4 inches apart to create a lawn effect. Make sure not to buy German chamomile, which is also very nice, but is an annual plant that grows much taller and will re-seed prolifically.
Wall germander sports small, glossy, dark green leaves with lavender flowers in mid-summer. The plants grow about 5 inches tall and spread to about 16 inches wide. It prefers a sunny spot.
Sweet woodruff is the go-to herb for shady spots under trees where grass won’t grow successfully. It gets about 8 inches tall and spreads indefinitely. Pretty white flowers cover the plants in spring and when crushed the leaves smell of freshly mown hay. Dried leaves have a vanilla scent.
Wooly yarrow forms a low growing mat of grayish-green finely textured leaves. It needs full sun and does best in well-drained soils of low fertility. Yellow flowers last all summer, especially if deadheaded.
Creeping golden marjoram has bright golden foliage with white flowers with pink bracts. Although it likes sun, afternoon shade is appreciated. It mounds to about 6 inches tall but can be moved to keep it flat. Leaves turn greener as the summer progresses. Various sources list creeping marjoram’s coldest USDA hardiness zone as 4 (where we are) to 6, so plant it in a protected area on the south side of your home.


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