I love my lawn, and having a fabulous large lawn can be beautiful and increase the value on your home, but I also know that the cost high — both to the wallet and, as it becomes more and more a topic of discussion, the environment: owning a mower, the toxic emissions, fertilizers, pesticides, water consumption and let’s not forget about the time needed for weekly mowing. And after all that work we still get weeds and dead spots. Oh, what to do? One can always hire a lawn care service specialist, but this saves you only time; the environmental effects remains. And although I’m not advocating that we ever give up all our entire lawn — we shouldn’t have to — I do believe that considering ways to reduce the grassed areas of our lawns is a good idea.
That’s why I have always preferred a small manageable lawn with large gardens. Truth be told, for the non-grassed areas you have lots of choices that are both low maintenance and good for the environment. Over the years I have discovered some of the best-growing ground covers and combinations that are both decorative and low maintenance. Now, you might not put any one of these over your entire lawn, but used strategically or in combination in smaller areas that are hard to grow grass in they can help cut down on grass space and still increase your garden space (love that!), providing you with a well maintained and beautiful area that can only be referred to as MARvelous!
Vinca minor ‘Bowles’ (Periwinkle)
Its common names are “creeping myrtle” and “periwinkle flower.” But this is a case where the scientific name is as well known as the common names.
The Vinca minor vines stay short, sprawling out over the ground. They typically stand only 3″-6″ off the ground, but their trailing stems can reach 18″ in length. The stems of these jointed plants root as they creep along the ground and spread rapidly to form an attractive ground cover. The best part, they bloom a bluish-lavender “periwinkle flower” in spring and bloom intermittently throughout summer. Should you happen to find the white variety, you’re in for a real treat.
Vinca minor vines require good drainage. Plant in partial sun to full shade. Good choice for a ground cover for an area with dry shade; while the plant will grow more vigorously in moist soils, Vinca minor vines are reasonably drought-tolerant once established. Achieving vigorous growth is usually not a problem for these plants.
Hedera helix (English Ivy)
English ivy plants can act as groundcovers but are also climbers. They will even bear insignificant greenish flowers on beautiful lush evergreen foliage. Trim in the spring, and then continual cutting is important to keep it manageable. Ivy can even soften the look of an unattractive cement foundation wall and adds color and texture. This is also a perfect choice for part shade to full shade.
Creeping Jenny (Lusimaxhia Nummularia)
Creeping Jenny is an almost-evergreen ground cover that’s ideal for garden spots that receive the sun or partial shade spreading very rapidly.
Vigorous, creeping, rooting stems are covered by pairs of soft, round yellow leaves. Bright yellow cup-shaped flowers in summer give the plant the appearance of a golden carpet.
The foliage is evergreen in the south and stays green through December in northern zones. Creeping Jenny thrives in zones 2 to 10.
Pachysandra terminalis (Pachysandra)
Pachysandra plants are low-growing evergreen perennials for shady places. They grow slowly but surely via a network of underground runners. It offers a thick, dense bed and is the perfect solution to covering the ground around tree trunks where sunlight is scarce and mowing difficult. Pachysandra grows up to a foot tall and has attractive, dark green, tooth-edged leaves arranged in whorls. The white flower spikes that arrive in spring are neither numerous nor conspicuous. White berries that follow are even less noticeable. Ideal for all shady areas, for edging and as a border around the house foundation and even better deer-resistant.
Tough, earth-friendly, easy-to-maintain perennials that take low to high foot traffic depending on verity. These amazing plants liberate your landscape from that not-so-green mower, cut down on the use of chemicals and create lovely beds of color! Plus, they’re quick to foster friendly habitats for all kinds of great beneficial critters.
I love Sagina subulate, or “Irish Moss,” a low-growing, dense, ground cover that thrives in heavy foot-traffic areas. The best part? These plants bloom small, star-shaped, white flowers and can be covered completely in spring. Grows quickly and will provide you with a fantastic lawn-alternative for years to come. Terrific between rocks and stones.
What is the number one selling Stepables plant? Sotoma Blue Star Creeper “Blue Star Creeper” This is the perfect lawn substitute as it is excellent between stepping-stones, under roses and even around ponds and decks. Amazingly easy to grow, as it offers an abundance of sky blue star-shaped flowers that emerge in late spring and persist to the frost. Easy to maintain as it tolerates moderately heavy foot traffic. If you get snow in your area not to worry– as it can survive up to -20 with snow cover. A must have!
You will absolutely love these in your garden. Remember during the first year, any new plantings will require weeding and mulching, but once established, little care is needed making it the perfect green alternative.
So, now you have good reason to mow less, water less, and stress less about your lawn. My grandmother always told me not to go out in the garden without a cover-up, and I guess it’s still true.
And there you have it.