Jack and Evadine Bryan, of Sylvania, are fortunate to have a beautiful natural ravine in their back yard. Desiring it to be part of their landscaping plan, but with low maintenance, they planted a combination of ground covers that look great and grow well in the shade.
Lamium, pachysandra, ivy, European ginger, ajuga, euonymus, wild geraniums, lily-of-the-valley, and native ferns were planted for gentle waves of varied textures and subtle shades of green.
Ground covers are low-spreading plants, mostly perennials, that are used to beautify areas where little or no foot traffic occurs. Carefully chosen, properly planted, and occasionally tended during the first year or two, ground covers can stop or deter erosion on slopes that are difficult to mow.
In the Bryans' back yard, ground covers have converted bare root-ridged ground into a lush jade carpet. The ground under the trees has rich humus soil. The clump-forming perennials are planted six to 12 inches apart, and the stem-rooting creepers can be spaced father apart. Weed control is very important in the early stages. When the ground covers become dense, they will keep the weeds out.
After new starts are planted, they should be mulched and kept adequately moist to assure a successful beginning. In the autumn, the fallen leaves are left to decompose and improve the soil quality.
For early spring color, Mrs. Bryant planted marsh marigolds, trillium, and bluebells, which flower before the trees leaf out, in the bog-like area at the foot of the ravine.
Some ground covers can grow too vigorously and become invasive. The only places some of these are worthwhile are areas that must be covered quickly or that need carefree planting at a low cost.
Among the ground covers to avoid is goutweed. It spreads rapidly by way of branching underground stems. Ground ivy is very difficult to completely remove because any bits of stem quickly root and sprout. Japanese honeysuckle can run rampant. Creeping jenny can rapidly invade the lawn area. Kudza is a twining climber that grows as much as 50 feet in a season and is so assiduous it is taking over large areas of the Southeast.
The Bryans selected some of the most favorable hardy varieties. Ajuga has the bonus of spikes of white or purple spring blooms, and the foliage remains semi-evergreen during the winter. European ginger is a handsome four-to-six-inch evergreen perennial with lustrous dark green leaves. Lily-of-the-valley is a herbaceaous perennial with a very fragrant white bell-shaped flower. The red-orange berries in the fall are poisonous.
Wintercreeper euonymus is a very hardy evergreen creeper. Pachysandra is one of the most popular and versatile ground covers. Lamium has mottled foliage with clusters of white or yellow flowers. A favorite is white Nancy because of its outstanding mostly white foliage and pure white flowers, a wonderful contrast against the green. These are only some of the hundreds of ground covers successful in Toledo's climate zone.
The Bryans occasionally have to remove ground covers that have become overgrown. If you are fortunate enough to know someone who is removing ground covers, ask whether they will put what they pull into a large trash bag for you. That will be much cheaper than purchasing starts at the garden center.
Mona Macksey is a free-lance writer for The Blade.