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'Goldrush' heralds the coming of fall with masses of tiny, yellow flowers for four weeks in August and September. Its compact size—about a foot tall—makes it a great candidate for a rock garden or border edge.
This is the first goldenrod to bloom, featuring bright yellow, plume-like panicles in midsummer. It has dark green leaves along reddish stems, which form a vase-shaped clump when mature.
This is one of the smallest species of goldenrod, topping out at only 4 to 6 inches high in poor soils, and 2 feet high in fertile soils. It is considered a garden-worthy species, with gray-green leaves that form clumps and languid, one-sided yellow plumes. It is tolerant of both sandy and clay soils.
This low-growing, clump-forming shrub has a spreading habit, reaching 10 inches tall. Slender branches spread across the ground. Foliage is light blue-green to 1 inch long. In late June, this plant bears clusters of pink flowers; bloom continues into September if deadheaded.
The finely textured, green leaves of this slow-growing, clump-forming perennial turn golden yellow in autumn. It bears cloudy panicles of fragrant, pale-pink to tawny flowers 5 to 10 inches long in late summer, reaching 3 feet tall.
This mat-forming perennial has rosettes of furry, silvery-gray leaves to 4 inches long. In summer, it bears gray spikes tipped with tiny, pink-purple or violet flowers. This plant crowds out weeds. 'Silver Carpet' is a non-flowering cultivar. 'Big Ears' has 8- to 12-inch-long, grayish-white felted, mid-green leaves.
This decidous, thicket-forming shrub has attractive wavy-margined leaves that resemble maple leaves and have good orange-yellow fall color. Cutleaf stephanandra grows to less than 2 feet tall but spreads by suckering. Flowers are unremarkable at a distance, but attractive close-up. In winter, the rich brown, arching shoots draw the eye.
Chenault coralberry is an undemanding workhorse. This 2-foot-tall shrub spreads about 10 feet without causing any trouble. It does an excellent job of covering ground and smothering weeds while eliminating erosion. In late summer, small pink flowers appear and are followed by rosy red fruit.
This prolific cultivar has dark green foliage and bears nodding blue flowers from mauve buds. It grows to a compact height of 18 inches tall. It may become invasive and difficult to eradicate once established.
This notably beautiful plant produces huge, elongated banana-shaped leaves, which are arfully edged in luminescent yellow. The rosette sits at 18 inches tall, and in early summer the plant bears clusters of mauve-pink bells atop stems that are 4 to 5 feet tall.
This evergreen or deciduous subshrub is grown for its attractive, dark green aromatic foliage and its light pink to deep purple flowers, which blossom in summer and early fall. This garden workhorse can be used in troughs, containers, low hedges, knot gardens, rock gardens, or as edging.
This compact, evergreen subshrub has glossy, dark green leaves and grows to only 5 inches tall and 16 inches wide. It bears long-lasting, lavender flowers, and it is a great choice for low edging or for a rock garden.
The lacy leaves of this meadow rue look like a columbine's, hence the common and scientific names. But the leaves are actually gray-green and more delicate than its namesake. It bears clusters of long-lasting cottony flowers in shades of lilac, purple, or white in early summer. It is suitable for naturalizing in a meadow or woodland. These perennials grow to about 3 feet tall and half as wide.
This species has exquisite tiny foliage that looks somewhat like parsley but with a steely blue cast. The leaves clothe stems that reach up to 18 inches in height. In early summer, it bears tiny greenish yellow flowers in starlike clusters. Plants grow to about 18 inches wide.
This garden gem forms a 6-inch-high mat of dainty, ferny foliage, and is perfect for a trough or a lightly shaded nook in a rock garden. In early summer, it produces a profusion of lavender blossoms which appear just above the leaves.
This perennial species is one of the most delicate of Thalictrums, with tiny foliage reminiscent of maidenhair ferns. It bears small, nodding, long-lasting flowers of a unique yellowish plum-brown. It grows to about 3 feet tall and wide.
This fragrant annual is covered with delicate, daisy-like yellow blossoms in July and August. It is best grown as a groundcover, between paving stones, or in a rock garden. It has needle-like, almost ferny leaves and grows to 1 foot tall and wide.
In early- to mid-summer, this mat-forming thyme erupts with masses of 6-inch-high spikes covered with pink flowers. The light green, tiny foliage, hugging the ground in mats, has a pleasing lemon fragrance when crushed. This plant shines when spilling over stone walls or between the cracks in paving stones, where passersby can tread on the leaves and release the lemony scent.
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.
This thyme grows to 6 inches tall, with fuzzy stems and tiny, rounded, fuzzy blue-green leaves. In summer, it produces clusters of very small white to lilac-pink flowers. Plants spread to about 9 inches wide. The leaves are aromatic but the strength of their scent varies according to the plant's site and the time of year.
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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