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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 wild ginger is an evergreen groundcover with heart-shaped, shiny leaves that are often marbled. Its interesting brown-purple flowers hide beneath the foliage.
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.
This fern has cool, grey-green, almost silvery, foliage and reddish-purple stalks that are useful for brightening dark spots in borders. It is deciduous, and although it reaches only 8 to 12 inches in height, it is easy to grow, prolific, and easily divided.
'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 woodland plant is valued for its flowers and groundcovering leaves. Terminal clusters of delicate blue flowers appear in spring.
This brunnera cultivar has a silvery, heart-shaped leaves that are mostly everygreen. Delicate blue flowers emerge in spring. Drought tolerant once established, ‘Looking Glass’ brunnera requires little watering and is fairly resistant to pests. This cultivar grows to a little more than a foot tall and almost as wide. Use it in a woodland or shade garden, in a container, or at waterside. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
This sedge is one of the most adaptable of the ground-cover grasses. Its ability to look the same in sun or shade makes it a valuable asset in plantings that go in and out of full sun. Berkeley sedge is a good solution for areas under stress where lawn grasses often fail. The flowers are not particularly noteworthy.
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.
A spreading subshrub, Cornus canadensis has whorls of leathery mid-green leaves that turn purple in the winter. Green and white, sometimes pink-flushed flowers emerge in late spring and early summer, followed by clusters of scarlet berries.
Darmera's flower stalks emerge from the ground on naked stems in spring, and are followed by cupped, rounded but indented leaves up to 24 inches across. The foliage forms a lovely, vase-like clump, 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The flower clusters are composed of many 5-petaled, starry, pink or white florets with conspicuous stamens. This native of the western U.S. is found growing along woodland stream banks, and helps to add a tropical look to temperate gardens. Darmera makes a distinct and long-lasting foliage statement in moist conditions, and exhibits autumn color also.
This fern's lacy foliage smells of freshly mown grass and carpets the woodland or a moist, partially sunny site. The green lushness turns golden in the fall. It is a good choice for rapid naturalizing. Use in a woodland garden or near water features.
This is a handsome and lush, semi-evergreen vase-shaped fern with thickly textured leaves that is suitable for specimen treatment. It reaches 3.5 feet tall. Grow in a woodland or moist shade garden.
Tokyo wood fern's ladderlike, upright fronds provide a strong vertical accent to its surroundings. The vase-shaped clumps grow to 18 to 36 inches tall. Grow in a woodland or shade garden.
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 evergreen foliage plant has large, leathery leaves and daisy-like yellow flowers. It looks great in the border or in containers.
This attractive groundcover blooms all summer and is tolerant of diverse habitats. It has glossy leaves and notched, 1.25-inch lilac-pink flowers with darker veins.
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
Great Plants for a Fall Cutting Garden
Rely on colorful, long-stemmed plants to keep your vases filled as the season winds down
by Suzanne McIntire
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
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