Repeat bloomers are best for small spaces
Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’, Zones 5 to 8
Photo/Illustration: Bill Johnson
The fringed flowers of ‘Bath’s Pink’ pink (Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’ ) make the plant look delicate, but its tenacious nature earns it a top spot in the category of flowering ground covers. Older pinks have a reputation for “melting out” during sultry summer weather, but ‘Bath’s Pink’ is more tolerant of heat and humidity. It also adapts to a wide range of soil conditions but prefers a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. Good drainage, though, is a must, especially in winter. Late spring to early summer is the peak season for its fragrant flowers, but scattered blooms can appear later, too, especially if you shear off the faded flower heads. When the plants aren’t in bloom, the dense carpets of slender, blue-green leaves provide ample interest through the rest of the growing season and into winter.
While I’m currently a fan of bright-colored flowers like those on ‘Bath’s Pink’, I can’t resist the soft blues and grays of catmint (Nepeta spp. and cvs.). My favorite is ‘Walker’s Low’ (Nepeta X faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ ). Its compact habit makes it a particularly pleasing ground cover around hydrangeas and other flowering shrubs. The 15- to 20-inch-tall mounds of gray-green foliage are attractive all through the growing season and emit a minty aroma when you brush against them. From late spring to midsummer, they’re topped with 6- to 8-inch-long spikes of purple-blue flowers; a light midsummer shearing encourages rebloom in late summer and fall. Once established, ‘Walker’s Low’ is extremely drought tolerant.