From the Sperry Garden – October, 2007

We live at the bottom of a pecan forest in rural North Central Texas. My original bermuda lawn gave up 25 years ago and, more recently, so did our St. Augustine. Area-by-area I have turned to shade-tolerant groundcovers in lieu of the lawngrass. You’re seeing Persian ivy, a close relative of English ivy that I especially like due to its very large leaves. It grows to 6 to 9 inches tall. I have used several thousand plants which I have grown myself (it’s almost never sold in nurseries). Of the many groundcovers I have in our gardens, only mondograss is more widely planted.

Other groundcovers that have served the purpose in the shadows of the pecans (ranked in decreasing order of use in our gardens):

Mondograss: 6 to 10 inches tall; grass-like but not a real grass; inconspicous flowers.

Purple wintercreeper euonymous: A full-sun groundcover to 8 to 12 inches tall. Also adapts well in heavy shade. Maroon winter foliage turns deep green all summer.

Asian jasmine: Another full-sun groundcover that grows to 6 inches high. Glossy dark green leaves, but other varieties are also sold.

Liriope: Larger cousin to mondograss these varieties grow to 10 to 16 inches tall. Summer flowers are lavender or creamy white. Both green and variegated types.

Aspidistra: Cast iron plant is handsome tall plant (to 2 feet) for groundcover use. Suffers winter burn in our garden but still worth the worry. Must have shade.

Dwarf mondograss: Compact form (to 3 inches) of regular mondo. Must be planted close together to ensure fairly quick cover. Due to expense I have used it only in small spaces.

Southern wood fern: Deciduous fern makes handsome clumps. Nice textural contrast to bold-leafed plants such as aspidistra, Persian ivy.

Ajuga: Lovely spreading groundcover to 5 to 6 inches tall. Blue bloom spikes in early spring. Suffers soil-born diseases so I limit my plantings.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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