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The Royal Horticultural Society Horticultural Advisory Leaflet Number 144 February 1997 Ground Cover


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The Royal Horticultural Society

Horticultural Advisory Leaflet

Number 144 February 1997

Ground Cover


Plants for general planting and for banks and steeper slopes
Many plants are low-growing and spreading in habit and may on this basis be termed ground-cover plants, but the prime requisite of a good ground cover plant is to provide a rapid, sufficiently dense cover, with evergreen foliage or depth of densely twiggy growth, to suppress germination and development of bird or wind-carried weed seeds and thus once established, to eliminate the need for weed control measures. Whatever ground-covering plants are used, some weed control will be necessary until the young plants have established and formed a cover (good soil fertility is therefore very important). Amongst the more effective of the various plants commonly termed ground-cover plants are:-


General ground cover





Key:

* Denotes evergreen plants

(A) Denotes lime-hating plants

AGM Denotes plants which have received the Society's Award of Garden Merit.





Alchemilla mollis AGM

30cm (1ft) apart

*

Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’ (syn. Senecio ‘Sunshine’)

90cm (3ft) apart




Calluna vulgaris and cvs. (A)

45–60cm (1½–2ft) apart

*

Cotoneaster dammeri AGM

60cm (2ft) apart

*

Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Decorus’ AGM

60cm (2ft) apart

*

Cotoneastersuecicus ‘Skogholm’

90cm –1.2m (3–4ft) apart

*

Epimedium perralderianum

30cm (1ft) apart

*

Erica carnea and cvs. (A)

45–60cm (1½–2ft) apart

*

Erica vagans and cvs. (A)

60cm (2ft) apart

*

Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ AGM

90cm (3ft) apart




Genista hispanica

60cm (2ft) apart




Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersens Variety’ AGM

45cm (1½ft) apart

*

Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ AGM

45cm (1½ft) apart

*

Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ AGM

90cm (3ft) apart

*

Hedera hibernica AGM

90cm (3ft) apart

*

Helianthemum hybrids (particularly ‘Rhodanthe Carneum’ AGM







and ‘Wisley Primrose’ AGM)

60cm (2ft) apart

*

Hypericum calycinum (semi-evergreen)

60cm (2ft) apart

*

Hypericum moserianum AGM

45cm (1½ft) apart

*

Juniperus conferta (milder areas and sheltered situations)

90cm (3ft) apart

*

Juniperus sabina ‘Tamariscifolia’

90cm (3ft) apart




Lamium galeobdolon

60–90cm (2–3ft) apart

*

Lonicera pileata

60–90cm (2–3ft) apart

*

Mahonia aquifolium

45–60 (1½–2ft) apart

*

Pachysandra terminalis AGM (needs moist, lime-free conditions)

30cm (1ft) apart




Persicaria affinis ‘Darjeeling Red’ (syn. Polygonum affine ‘Darjeeling Red’) AGM

30cm (1ft) apart




General ground cover (continued)







Potentilla fruticosa ‘Manchu’

90cm (3ft) apart

*

Prunus laurocerasus ‘Zabeliana’

90cm–1.2m (3–4ft) apart




Rosa ‘Nozomi’ AGM

90cm (3ft) apart




Rubus ‘Betty Ashburner’

45cm (1½ft) apart




Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’

90cm (3ft) apart




Symphoricarpus chenaultii ‘Hancock’

90cm (3ft) apart




Symphytum ibericum

30cm (1ft) apart

*

Vinca minor

60cm (2ft) apart

*

Waldsteinia ternata


30cm (1ft) apart

N.B. Suggested planting distances are given. Closer spacing might be contemplated on poor soils and in difficult situations. In good conditions, using good quality plants and with careful management, effective cover should be achieved in most cases after two growing seasons.


Ground cover for banks and steeper slopes
On steeper slopes coarse coconut matting or similar material can be pegged down so that the soil on the slope, temporarily cleared of vegetation or with added soil, is held against erosion. Planting is then carried out through the matting. As the matting decays, stem-rooting plants should root-in to provide good consolidation.
Plants for steep slopes

*

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens AGM

*

Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Decorus’ AGM, C. salicifolius ‘Gnom’, C. suecicus ‘Skogholm’

*

Euonymus fortunei ‘Darts Blanket’

*

Hedera colchica AGM, H. colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ AGM, H. hibernica AGM

*

Hypericum calycinum




Jasminum nudiflorum AGM

*

Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ AGM

*

Mahonia repens




Parthenocissus quinquefolia AGM




Passiflora caerulea AGM (only milder regions)




Rosa jacksonii ‘Max Graf’, R. wichuriana

*

Rubus ‘Betty Ashburner’, R. tricolor

*

Trachelospermum jasminoides AGM (only milder regions)




Vinca major


N.B. Suggested planting distances 90–120cm (3–4ft) apart except as indicated above or over-leaf.
Planting and care

Thorough preparation and careful planting are particularly important, as soils on banks and steeper slopes are often poor and sandy. Well-rotted manure or compost should be incorporated where possible, either in preparing the site or worked into the bottom of each planting hole immediately prior to planting, together with a moderate dressing of an organic fertiliser such as fish manure or equal parts hoof and horn meal and bonemeal to each station when planting. Of particular importance is careful and thorough watering-in to settle the soil around the plant roots immediately after planting. After planting (or in March following autumn planting) apply a general fertiliser, eg. ‘Growmore’, followed by a mulch to help conserve moisture during the summer months. Keep a regular check on watering needs throughout the first growing season after planting, including the winter months with evergreens, subsequently watering as necessary during dry periods.








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