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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
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
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.
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
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
A hardy perennial, chamomile has aromatic, threadlike leaves that fill the air with a pleasing apple-pineapple scent. White, daisylike blooms appear in summer. The cultivar 'Treneague' is valued because it does not flower, making an attractive lawn. 'Flore Pleno' has double flowers showier than those of the species.
Goldenstar is a creeping groundcover with long, reddish-green leaf stalks and opposite, heart-shaped, hairy mid-green leaves. From early spring to summer, it bears solitary, star-shaped yellow flowerheads with 5 large, triangular ray florets.
From May to October, this perennial bears bright yellow, daisylike flowers on leafy stalks. It spreads by rooting runners to form an attractive groundcover that is easily controlled. This variety differs from the species in its more prostrate form and its more rapid spread.
'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.
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.
The bicolored, white-tipped and raspberry-centered blooms are large (1 to 1.5 inches across) and long lasting. Flowers cover the mound of grassy foliage for weeks in summer and early fall. This hybrid does not produce seed.
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 choice corydalis produces fragrant clusters of periwinkle-blue flowers and ferny foliage infused with purple hues. It is similar to 'Blue Panda,' yet is slower to spread and blooms more reliably during the summer.
This compact species forms broad mats of blue-gray linear leaves and is perfect for a rock garden setting. The purplish-pink flowers are solitary, toothed, and deliciously fragrant.
This softly textured tender perennial (or annual) produces delicate, loose spires in summer and fall. Diascia is at home spilling onto a walkway or filling in between more structured plants.
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.
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
'Wudang Star' is a clump-forming, evergreen perennial with spiny, glossy foliage. New leaves emerge with bronzy pink edges before turning green in summer. Loose spikes of star-shaped white flowers, borne in spring, have prominent yellow stamens.
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.
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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