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Home Groundcovers and Vines
Groundcovers and Vines PDF Print E-mail


Groundcovers are the garden designer's friend. They provide a strong gardening backbone when nothing much is in bloom, while also serving a variety of functions:

  • they can free you from the slavery of mowing a lawn.
  • they can reduce the need for watering, weeding and mulching.
  • a flow of groundcover can soften hard edges in your landscape, like the corners of your house, patio or front stoop.
  • they’ll hide the unsightly foliage of bulbs after they’ve bloomed, or leggy shrubs and perennials whose ankles look better clothed.
  • they shore up hillsides, banks and dunes that are prone to erosion.
  • some will grow in wet or shady areas where grass won’t grow (variegated or colored leaves are particularly good for brightening up shaded spots)
  • a mosaic of groundcover varieties can transform a garden room floor into a carpet of pleasing textures (a garden ‘room’ is an outdoor living space that is defined by a border such as: a hedge, fence, trellis or wall). Choose gardening textures that contrast with each other: small leaves set against large ones, ferny leaves set against spiky ones.
  • taller varieties, such as bamboo or sweet woodruff, will act as a screen as well as a groundcover.

Decide how you want to use groundcovers, then select the flower garden plant carefully to match your plans.

Groundcovers that flower and require deadheading (removing the spent blossoms) are not the best choice for large mass plantings.

Some forms of ferns creep horizontally and can be used as ground covers. Be sure to watch the height of the ferns you choose. You’ll need to consider whether your design works best with a six-inch variety or a four-foot flower garden plant.


Home Garden Tip: One of our favorite tricks for tying together disparate elements of trees, shrubs and flowers is to use a single variety of groundcover, or several related varieties, in each bed.


Vines are used for:

  • ornamentation
  • to screen unwanted views
  • a groundcover – ivy is one example

We all need someone we can lean on, and vines are no exception.

The four types of support that we use most often are:

  • trellises
  • tuteurs
  • arbors
  • walls

It's important to know in advance how a vine climbs in order to provide proper support:

  • some, like clematis and grape, climb by winding tendrils or leaflike feelers around the object on which they are growing
  • others, like Boston Ivy, climb by attaching small fuzzy-stemmed roots to a support
  • the group that includes wisteria and bittersweet climb by twining stems

Know the form the plant wants to take and plan the support to suit that natural pattern of growth. Then install the support early. Later, as the plants mature, the spreading leaves will hide your bindings.

With any vine, the process of training it is essentially the same: a balance of firmness and respect.

Home Garden Tip: In the training process, try to avoid using obvious materials that give your garden the look of a botanical jail. Use elements such as:

Twine: make sure it’s soft enough so that it doesn’t harm tender stems

Raffia: available at craft stores, it’s made of dried palm fronds that are a dull khaki in color, so it’s virtually invisible in the garden. Soak it in warm water for a few minutes to soften before use

Copper wire: durable lashing that tarnishes to an unobtrusive brown

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