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A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads’ is a slender-leaved perennial selection that doesn't wander, forming a textured carpet in shades of deep burgundy. A single plant makes a mound about 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms on and off all year, but you may never notice. The small, pale flower buttons are held in the leaf axils, where they are nearly indistinguishable from the foliage unless you're paying close attention. Use 'Red Threads' at the base of taller plants in the border to provide vibrant color echoes or contrasts. Grow as a warm-season annual in cooler climates, mass the plants in beds, or use in a formal knot garden as the Victorians did.
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
Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' is a stunning, wide-spreading ground cover with grassy, blue-green foliage and pink flowers. Use it to edge a bed or grow it in your rock garden for a splash of cool color. To keep its blooms going, be sure to deadhead.
Early in the season, the thin, heart-shaped leaves of this plant have a red tinge, which turns to bronze in fall. Plant red epimedium along a path, where its delicate foliage and tiny spring flowers can be admired. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
Longspur barrenwort is a clump-forming, deciduous, rhizomatous perennial. Leaves, light green and flushed bronze when young, are heart-shaped with spiny margins. Four-petaled white, yellow, pink, or purple flowers, hanging in clusters, appear in mid- and late spring.
This notable species produces erect stems of bronzy burgundy leaves and purple-green bracts in early summer. It looks exceptional when placed near contrasting plants. The foliage may be cut back after flowering to produce fresh growth.
Regarded by some as the bluest blue fescue, this plant forms compact, cascading mounds of foot-tall, intensely blue, narrow leaves that are attractive in all seasons. Blooms are generally secondary to the foliage, but this cultivar blooms more heavily than most, with spikelets in summer. This cultivar is long-lived and very hardy. Grow in groups in a border or rock garden, or as a groundcover.
Deeply cut plum-purple leaves emerge in spring and stay true to color throughout the season. Lavender-blue flowers bloom beginning in late spring. 'Midnight Reiter' grows to only about 6 or 8 inches tall and twice as wide. More shade causes the foliage to be greener.
Ruffled bright green leaves—first chartreuse and then lime green— and spires of white flowers distinguish this vigorous coral bells cultivar. It is eye-catching in a container, in a rock garden, as edging, or as groundcover.
In the past decade or so, dozens of new Heuchera cultivars have appeared sporting many combinations of foliage color. While all are delightful foliage plants, the lighter-colored varieties seem best adapted to shade. The most popular of these is Dolce® Key Lime Pie. With its bright gold–chartreuse leaves, this gem of a plant will light up a dark, shady area. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
The old-fashioned shamrock houseplant is now high fashion. Several introductions from Proven Winners push this group to the fore for its elegant foliage; abundant, delicate flowers; and vigor. Only 6 to 10 inches high with a spread to 12 inches, this plant’s tiny, ¾-inch-wide, bronze-colored leaf clusters and bright yellow flowers are massed on trailing stems that spill over the sides of shaded window boxes and containers.
This clump-forming variety has very dramatic, deeply cut foliage with wide black veins that looks like a black snowflake when new. The dark color is more pronounced in cool weather. Plants produce a profusion of starry white flowers on numerous spires up to 12 inches high and grow to about a foot wide. Tiarellas are at home in moist woodland environments. In the garden they make wonderful carpets of intricate leaves. For a long period from spring into summer, the profusion of foamy flowers can be appreciated up close or from a distance. Grow 'Black Snowflake' as a groundcover or edger in a shady border or woodland garden. It is a great foil to early spring bulbs.
This clump-forming variety has unusually long, maple-shaped leaves with a chocolate-colored overlay. It is topped in spring by 16-inch spires of pink buds which yield to wispy, starlike ivory flowers. Plants rebloom lightly, so they can flower from spring to mid-summer. 'Mint Chocolate' grows to about 16 inches tall and a foot wide.
This clump-forming variety has exquisitely textured, bright green maple-like leaves emblazoned with chocolate centers. In spring, its large pink-kissed-white flowers rebloom lightly on 16-inch stalks. Leaf coloration is best in cool weather. Plants grow to about a foot wide.
This reblooming, clump-forming variety blooms in spring, producing 15-inch spires densely packed with pink blossoms. Its deeply cut foliage is compact, with black markings along the midrib. Plants grow to about 10 inches tall and wide.
A good choice for winter color, this clump-forming variety is often grown for its long lasting, pink-budded white flowers that appear in late spring on 12-inch spires. Its star-shaped leaves are marked with burgundy and, in mild climates, turn bronze in winter. Plants grow to about 1 foot tall and wide.
This is one of the first and most plentiful Trilliums to bloom in the spring. It has upright maroon blossoms (occasionally white or yellow) without stalks, and its leaves can be nicely mottled. It grows to 12-18 inches tall and 8-12 inches wide.
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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