Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lithodora, Cotoneaster and Thyme Ground Covers

I planted a 4 inch pot of low-growing lithodora last year because I love its brilliant blue flower bells and needed some ground cover near the rhododendron plant. The plant has done more than I expected, it has spread a good two feet wide and flowers regularly in spring and summer. The leaves of the lithodora look like small iceplant and its low growing habit of three to four inches tall and its beautiful blooms are a wonderful choice for ground cover in a sunny area in your garden. The lithodora is growing so well it is overtaking a small heather that I may have to dig up and move which is a shame since that particular heather was covered in small pink flowers last year. I'm thinking of trying to divide one or two pieces from the original lithodora plant and replant them under the roses where there is plenty of room bare and needing ground cover. Lithodora is thick enough it helps keeps the weeds down in the area it is planted in, making it a great choice for growing beneath other plants. I'm looking forward to its brilliant blue flowers when the weather warms up here on the north coast.

The cotoneaster ground cover I planted two seasons ago is growing but not nearly as vigorously as I expected it to grow. The plant information that came with the 4 inch cotoneaster pot said the plant could grow up to six feet within a season. No such luck here, although it is probably closer to two feet wide now. Here on the coast it can take a few seasons for plants to dig in with their roots and do well, so I'm hoping another season in the ground will help the cotoneaster establish better in its home underneath the rose bushes. The cotoneaster has managed to produce some flowers and some orange berries in winter so far. The cotoneaster is not a low growing groundcover, it sits above the ground and has extending branches that arch and grow out from the stem. This is a lovely plant covered in flowers and featuring berries in fall and winter, providing color during the season and berries as food for birds when they need it most.

Another good choice for a groundcover plant is the herb thyme. Wooley thyme is particularly good to use since it grows fairly low to the ground, no more than five or six inches tall, and is very thick, helping you to keep weeds back in your flower bed. I grew a wooley thyme plant in Petaluma and it was very hardy and even flowered with tiny pink flowers in its sunny location. Thyme is a nice addition to your flower beds when you need some filler, there are a number of varieties of thyme with different leaf color and smells. Besides acting as a ground cover a good trim here and there will strengthen the plant and provide you with thyme herb you can use as you cook. I haven't seen wooley thyme yet in the local nursery here, mostly culinary thyme and lemon thyme are offered. It looks like I'll have to hunt around for wooley thyme at other nurseries in the area.

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