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Black foliage and spiky blue flowers (which appear in early summer) make a dramatic contrast. 'Black Scallop' thrives in full sun, which intensifies the black color. In full sun, the plant produces numerous runners, which should be thinned to prevent crown rot. In large plantings, you can run a rotary mower with a bagger attachment over the patch to control crowding and keep the foliage fresh. In mixed container plantings, the spilling habit of the plant makes it a standout choice. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Hachita' has narrow, blue-green leaves that form dense mounds. In summer, elongated seedheads add visual interest. This tough, drought-tolerant grass thrives in sand or clay soil with full-sun exposure. It needs a setting with good drainage, as it won't thrive in wet conditions. -Scott Vogt, Native grasses, Fine Gardening issue #124
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.
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.
Don't let its delicate appearance fool you: Western bleeding heart is hardy and tenacious. This elegant, herbaceous perennial spreads slowly from rhizomes to form drifts of soft blue-green, ferny foliage in shady woodland areas. Above the leaves in late spring, pink heart-shaped flowers hang gracefully from long, arched stems, attracting scores of hummingbirds but not the local deer. It is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months.
This hybrid has petite green-and-cream variegated foliage with a hint of pink on the undersides. It produces chartreuse and apple green bicolored bracts on airy stems.
This species produces erects stems of bronzy green leaves and greenish yellow bracts in early summer. In autumn, its leaves turn shades of red, orange, and gold.
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.
Long-lasting, terminal clusters of lime green bracts and flowers punctuate the meandering 'arms' of this ground-hugging species. The chalky seafoam foliage looks great spilling over a stone wall in a rock garden or at the edge of any bed.
These compact tufts of 8-inch-long powder-blue leaves are well suited for edging and naturalizing in the rock garden.
'Silver Dragon' lilyturf features thick, tufted evergreen clumps of linear silver and white leaves with a shimmering silver stripe running down the arching blades. Dense spikes of violet-mauve flowers are borne on purple-green stems in autumn, maturing to black berries.
Lilyturf is a great choice for problem sites, such as the dry shade under a tree canopy. 'Variegata' is a vibrant, grass-like plant with green foliage, striped with cream. Leaves are wider and more blunt at their tip than grasses, and in warmer climates, the foliage persists through the winter. Clumps run from 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall and half again as wide. Spikes of small blue-violet flowers appear in late September and are followed by dark purple berries. -Lou Anella, Regional Picks: Southern Plains, Fine Gardening issue #127
This Division 10 Bulbocodium species blooms late in the season, bearing up to 5 fragrant and nodding golden-yellow flowers. It has cylindrical, dark-green stems to 12 inches. It is good for naturalizing, and prefers neutral to alkaline soil.
This plant is an elegant addition to an herb or ornamental garden. It has lemon-scented green leaves edged in silver and produces lilac flowers in early summer.
'Annie Hall' forms a prostrate mat with small, narrow leaves and is covered with pale purple-pink flowers in late spring. Plants can grow to 10 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
Like other creeping myrtles, 'Illumination' is a tough evergreen ground cover for shade that will grow in almost any soil. Its hallmark is its bright gold leaves that are edged with a border of irregular green. Periwinkle-blue flowers appear in spring. Use 'Illumination' as a shade ground cover or in hanging baskets. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
This annual series is comprised of dwarf, compact plants, 10 to 12 inches tall and half as wide. They bloom all summer with fully double blossoms, to 4 inches wide, in apricot, ivory, red, yellow, pink, and many shades in between.
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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