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The southern maidenhair fern has fluffy, airy, and elegant foliage, which works equally well in containers or in open ground. It's a perfect plant for providing light, airy texture to shady beds. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Northern maidenhair fern's curved fronds have wiry black stems that wave in the wind. This plant spreads slowly (by branching rhizomes) and eventually forms large colonies. Its delicate texture looks most beautiful when paired with broad-leaved plants. -June Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
This is a short-growing aster with lilac-blue flowers and creeping rootstocks. Many cultivars exist. It can be used on steep slopes for erosion control.
This is a short-growing aster has creeping rootstocks and pink, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers. It can be used on steep slopes for erosion control.
This striking, richly-textured, deciduous ground cover has heart-shaped leaves that turn mauve in autumn. Purple, blue, or white flowers appear in late summer to early fall.
'Burgundy Lace' is a real showstopper in shady borders and containers, with its silvery purple-bronze fronds. The low-growing clumps are a good choice for edging pathways, and the plant looks terrific when planted in groups. 'Burgundy Lace' grows best in humus-rich, moist soil but will also adapt to conditions that are less than ideal. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
The broad silvery leaves of ‘Ursula’s Red’ have a showy burgundy band at the center of the leaves in spring. This plant can double in size in a single growing season, as it spreads from rhizomes. Though deer do like it, it may simply grow more fronds and not show any lasting damage. --Michael Ruggiero, Regional Picks: Mid-Atlantic, Fine Gardening issue #127
This tuberous begonia bears green heart-shaped foliage with red veining and claret-stained undersides that steal the show when backlit. Pendent clusters of slightly fragrant, satiny pink or white blossoms open from midsummer until frost. It makes a good perennial companion for ferns and hostas.
Serbian bellflowers have an easy, undemanding habit. Creating a stream of lavender blue, the 1-inch-diameter star-shaped blossoms bloom reliably from late spring to early fall. The foliage remains evergreen in mild winters and needs to be sheared only once in a while to keep its appearance tidy. 'Blue Waterfall' flows beautifully along bed edges and through rock gardens in full sun to partial shade.
'Ice Dance' is a dense, spreading sedge grown for its foliage. This sedge looks good year round, even in winter.The early-spring flowers are insignificant, but the white-edged leaves complement most other plants. Grow as a groundcover in woodland areas or in a shade garden. This sedge is evergreen in warm climates. -Jane Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
'Mark Viette' is a clump-forming, handsome 6-inch tall plant with thick, semi-evergreen deep green leaves and perky 1-inch flowers of buttercup yellow.
This is an evergreen, bushy shrub native to southwestern Europe and North Africa. Rock roses are useful in a shrub border, on a hillside, or in containers. Cistus albidus bears vibrant lilac-pink flowers in summer. Although each flower lasts only one day, they are produced in great numbers on plants that are 3 feet tall and wide.
This vigorous climber can easily cover a support of 8 to 10 feet tall once established. Finely textured, dense light-green foliage makes an excellent foil for dainty, pink and carmine teardrop-shaped flowers 2 inches across. Blooms appear in early August and continue well into autumn.
Lily of the valley's bell-shaped, sweetly scented flowers bloom in early spring. It likes partial to full shade and is perfect for a woodland garden. It may not be the best choice for your beds and borders because it tends to spread, but it is a perfect ground cover if you have a large shady spot under some trees.
Large golden-yellow blossoms are borne in late spring and midsummer on top of stems reaching almost 3 feet high. Native to the southeastern U.S.
Solitary yellow petals with toothed edges and flat, yellow centers open from early to late summer. Native to the central and southern U.S.
Stunning, fragrant pinkish-purple flowers bloom in spring and then sporadically through fall. The ferny foliage can reach as high as 3 feet and looks great around hostas and other shade garden plants.
This fragrant, blue-flowered species is more vigorous and heat tolerant than the blue cultivars. It blooms from late spring to early summer, and its foliage persists throughout the season with adequate moisture.
From late spring to summer, this species produces clusters of brilliant blue flowers over ferny foliage. It is the parent of many of the rapidly expanding selection of choice blue cultivars.
This is one of the coveted blue corydalises. It produces whorled clusters of sky-blue flowers on 18-inch tall plants.
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
Planting Ground Covers
Proper spacing and regular care are the best ways to create a lush, weed-free carpet
by Mary Hirshfeld
Flowering Ground Covers
To blanket an area small or large, these are the perennials to pick
by Nancy Ondra
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
Plants for Pathways
These durable creeping perennials discourage weeds and soften the look of a walkway
by Marty Wingate
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