Ground Cover Challenge

LivingInOz(7)January 6, 2004

OK - I am going crazy with this. I need a ground cover to go under three mature oak trees in my front yard in south central MO.

The soil here: packed, clay, often gravely, gooey in spring, dessert dry in summer, grass sporadic and weedy. Top it off with light to moderate shade and four bee hives and I'm in deep!

I would like a less than 4" tall, compact, evergreen or semi-evergreen cover that handles minimal foot traffic, deal with shade and drought, and not attract most of the thirty thousand bees across the yard. (who I must say have been very well behaved in the past considering my gardens are all out front here, too)

I have a list of plants a mile long and it's making me dizzy. First I thought Vinca minor (periwinkle) - nope - it's invasive. Then I went to and they do have lots of really nice stuff, but pricey!! Wow.

Oh, and just to make it a real challenge I can't afford to buy a bazillion plants. We just don't have it in the 'landscape trust' (LOL). Seeds would be better.

My latest idea is thyme. I already grow thyme in the herb bed near this spot and I hear Wooly Thyme is a nice ground cover... what do y'all suggest?

Thanks so much to any and all who dare to confront the dreaded groundcover challenge...


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I'm afraid if you are wary of bees, then you'd have to avoid thyme -- they produce flowers which will attract bees. In anycase thyme are sun loving plants and will not thrive as well in shade.. It's really too bad though because these are excellent plants.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 10:46PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

And thyme likes drainage too, third strike...

Antennaria parlinii ssp. fallax (Plantain Pussytoes) is a native to your area and fits the dry, part shade, semi evergreen, and low parts of your requirements. It is also the larval food source for painted lady butterflies, so if you resist the urge to kill all the black catepillers eating the plants in summer (only two or three weeks and the plants will bounce back fine), you get the added benefit of butterflies as well...Add big leaved asters, Missouri sundrops, rudebeckias, and the butterflies will be there every year (especially the painted ladies).

Oz, your state has the best native plant program in the country; you should make use of the program 'cause you helped pay for it. ;) They'll be able to help you find the right plants for Missouri (I think I did, but I'm from CT; wadda I know?) Heres a link...

Here is a link that might be useful: Grow Native

    Bookmark   January 24, 2004 at 3:18PM
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Hi Scott and Ianna - thanks for your replies.

Scott, I practically LIVE on the Grow Native website and have utelized the conservation dept. info at every turn for the last three years. smile. They are really incredible - so lucky!!

I am definitely going to use the MO primrose and pussytoes (which I have growing in my prairie field); I already have the rudbekias and echinaceas going in the perennial herb/flower bed on the periphery of this location as well as wild lavender hyssop and some other natives such as tickseed coreopsis and fire pink (catchfly). I'd love to get my hands on some liatris but I think they're difficult from seed and my budjet is busted already! smile.

As for the thyme, I've decided against it for a few reasons - mostly the bees (although I'm pretty sure wooly thyme would grow at this site because my creeping thyme near the same area grows gangbusters - and - my drainage here is too darn good).

I've settled on arranging some large rocks naturally around my oaks, filling the niches with soil and planting tough but showy specimen plants such as epimediums, hellbores, coreopsis, heuchera and others that look natural and somewhat casual and filling the pathways with something like buffalo grass (not sure on that, might end up being river gravel).

Does anyone know if you can grow epimediums from seed???

    Bookmark   January 24, 2004 at 6:40PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

A real plant propagators chore, epimedium from seed. Divisions is the preferred method and it's slow at that. Glad to see your using GN; I did a presentation to the CT Nursery and Landscape Association three years ago on trying to start the same type program, not yet but I can hope...

The native border sounds great; there's always room for a few more natives (they're used to being crowded together). Found a page at MU I thought you might like...

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Wildflowers

    Bookmark   January 24, 2004 at 10:07PM
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Hi Scott,

Thanks for the link I'll check that out. I think it's great that you are trying to organize a GN program where you are. I helped found a branch of the Native Plant Society here in this area and the folks that come in are pretty enthusiastic about learning more about natives for landscaping purposes. We have such challenging weather conditions here in the Ozarks - wet winters, dry, hot summers and thin rocky-clay soils that natives are the ideal solution for some tough gardening situations.

I was wondering about those epimediums from seed. I found a website that said it was "possible" but they didn't expound on it. I think I have enough challenges without trying that. smile.

Thanks a bunch for your input and support - every bit helps.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2004 at 1:14PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Happy to help. Really truly happy...

Have fun; Grow Native!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 1:01AM
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