From The Sperry Garden – May, 2009

Neil and His Groundcovers

We’ve lived beneath huge, old pecan trees for 32 years now, and it soon became evident that grass just wasn’t going to grow here. St. Augustine failed. I even tried fescue and zoysia, and they were disasters. That was 30 years ago, and I’ve learned better ways. Here are my favorite groundcovers, along with a few personal comments.

Mondograss (monkeygrass) is a sister to liriope, and not really a true grass at all. I love this groundcover because it’s easy and comparatively inexpensive. (Mine now comes at no cost – I supply my own plants from old, existing beds in our yard.) This is our back yard, and I never really have to do anything to it except blow out the pecan leaves in the fall. Oh, there’s the occasional pecan seedling the squirrels plant. I think we had about 10 million a couple of years ago! Mondograss is my hero.

Purple wintercreeper euonymus is a wonderful, trailing groundcover. This bed is now going into only its third summer. The first year it grew to cover. The second year it filled in, and this is the first year it has looked mature. I’ve used a ton of this plant, and I have three more flats waiting to be planted in another shady location. We use the line trimmer to keep it at 6 inches tall. It’s equally great in sun or shade, and its winter color is Aggie maroon. (Doesn’t hurt that I grew up in College Station.)

Asian jasmine has long been the most popular groundcover in Texas, and this bed in front of our house is about 28 years old. We trim it at the end of each winter so that this flush of spring growth will be as uniform as possible. It does brown in cold winters in our North Texas landscape, but it’s a workhorse.

Variegated Asian jasmine is more of a novelty than a go-to groundcover. Still, this was one single one-gallon plant 25 years ago, and now it covers many square feet. It needs to be used against dark, evergreen foliage to look its best. I have it growing along our driveway here, set off by low hollies.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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