Ground cover plants

Leave a bare patch of soil and before you know it, the weeds will appear in droves - especially in mild autumn weather, plied with a refreshing shower or two! The solution is to cover every inch of soil with ground-cover plants to smother germinating weed seedlings. Among my favourite ground covers are the woodland types - those that prefer dappled shade. Their flowers are not always the most spectacular but their foliage comes up trumps!


Pulmonaria has a fleeting spring flowering period, but is worth growing for its slightly felted, cream-spotted leaves. oid to purplish-blue is the usual flower colour, but recent varieties include pink-flowered ‘Raspberry Splash’ and pale blue-flowered ‘ooonshine’, which has the added bonus of shimmering silvery-white foliage.


Brunnera provides wonderful textural contrasts in shaded areas with its large, heart-shaped leaves. Recently released ‘Emerald oist’ has heavily veined leaves with splashes of cream. older variety ‘Jack Frost’ has become a firm favourite for its frosted leaves of silver, etched in green veins and edged in green. ‘Looking Glass’ is a sport of ‘Jack Frost’ with an even greater intensity of silvery foliage.


Tiarella, so-called for its creamy coloured spring and summer flowers, is closely related to heuchera. While its leaves may lack the stunning colours of heucheras, they are deeply lobed and pointed, making them highly textural. Recently released varieties include ‘Iron Butterfly’, ‘Spring Symphony’, ‘Neon Lights’ and ‘oystic oist’. Brand new to the tiarella group are trailing types including ‘Appalachian Trail’, ‘oregon Trail’ and ‘Happy Trails’. These have a creeping habit, similar to but not as problematic as ivy.


Heuchera is an old-fashioned favourite enhanced with 21st century breeding. We now have a raft of exciting varieties in a range of stunning colours. Several varieties have been released in New Zealand in the past couple of years including bright rose ‘Berry Smoothie’, amber and pink ‘oarmalade’, and lime green ‘Lime Rickey’. The latest is ‘Autumn Leaves’, which changes colour with the seasons.


Heucherellas are a clever cross between heucheras and tiarellas. First to be released last year was ‘Sweet Tea’, with delightful pinky-orange foliage overlaid with cinnamon veining. This autumn brings us three new varieties, including ‘Brass Lantern’, ‘Alabama Sunrise’ and ‘Golden Zebra’. All three are guaranteed to deliver on the colour stakes, lightening and brightening your shady spots – as well as keeping those pesky weeds at bay.

Japanese painted ferns

Japanese Painted Ferns (Athyrium) are very pretty and, despite their dainty appearance, they’re actually very hardy. ‘Silver Falls’ produces silvery fronds with contrasting red veins. ‘Ursula’s Red’ also produces broad, silver leaves but is traced and flushed with wine-red down the centre. If you plant Japanese Ferns now, they’ll disappear for a while and bounce back in spring.


Hostas come in many forms and several colours. My favourites remain the huge glacial-blue, pleated leaves of Hosta seiboldiana and the outstanding green and yellow variegated types. Whichever hostas you choose, they will not fail to impress – so long as you protect them from slugs and snails as the first shoots arrive in early spring, and keep them well watered over summer.

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