Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Heights with Ground Cover

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Heights with Ground Cover

Article excerpt

THE BARE GROUND under your trees needs cover. You know it. Your neighbors know it. And yet, you are flummoxed about what to grow there. Many, if not most, homeowners are, too.

Contrary to popular opinion, you have options. Many carefree perennials adapt for use as ground cover, in shade as well as sun.

And fall - while not being the perfect time to plant them - is an ideal time to initiate perennials' root growth through mounds of protective mulch. Top growth will follow next spring. What horticulturist June Hutson likes about new approaches to ground cover is the height that some reach, even under trees. Ferns and dwarf hostas are especially attractive fillers under such dense shade. "One shouldn't only think of ground covers as a few inches high," says Hutson, director of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden, "They can serve many purposes at different heights and in different situations." But that doesn't discount the use of traditional, lower-growing ivy, pac hysandra, even slightly taller, grassy liriope. Wally Pressey, general manager of Classic Groundcovers Inc., a wholesaler based in Athens, Ga., is filling record orders this year for the English Ivy, liriope and pachysandra that have survived early freezes and frosts around the country in recent years. And he sees a lot of value in "the newer varieties. I think they're getting a lot more press, and people are more aware and interested in using them than ever." Here, then, is a short list of ground-covering ideas - old and new - arranged Hutson-style, from tall to very short. - Dwarf hosta. At a maxiumum of about two feet, and with yellow leaves edged in green, "Gold Standard" adds light and texture to areas of full or partial shade. Or there's rich, blue-green "Blue Danube" next to a variegated hosta simply called "June," in shaded beds at the Kemper Center. After a year or two, spaced-out plantings of hosta will tend to grow together for more complete coverage. …

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