Gardens and gardeners change as time marches on. The gardens follow the fashion of the day, and today that seems to have ease of maintenance at its heart. When you go for a walk around the towns and villages of any location looking for garden ideas you see major changes, especially in new developments where hard landscape seems to take up most of the available outdoor space. Lawns and borders take second priority to space for the cars. In times past we kept our cars in the garage, but they are now so full of other things that there is no room left for a car.
|Delosperma cooperi and Senecio|
The garden with its lawns, borders and fruit and vegetable patch were our place of sanctuary, where we escape the pressures of modern living to be one with nature while at the same time we grow fresh fruit and vegetables for our healthy living. However there is such an abundance of other leisure activities available that gardening is going out of fashion for many folks. When I check the papers on the Thursday to see the houses for sale, I see numerous modern dwellings stuck in the middle of sterile hard landscapes where paving, sets and tarmac have replaced a green landscape.
|Doronicum and red tulips|
Then as some of us that do gardening on a slope get a wee bit older we find the energies of youth beginning to fade and we begin to look for the easy solution. The days of double digging every patch of soil and removing trees complete with roots no matter how big are becoming a distant memory. Thus we bring in more ground cover in our planting schemes to reduce the need for weeding and continual planting of bedding, bulbs and annuals. With clever design and knowledge of plants flowering times and heights we can still create very attractive planting schemes with a more permanent theme that will be easy to maintain.
Some ground cover plants are evergreen such as heathers, ivy and London Pride and others such as Euonymus and Houttuynia Chameleon are variegated so give us winter colour. When planning location of ground cover plants give thought to soil type, drainage, exposure to sun, shade and season of interest as well as height of plants, as they all have different needs.
Many plants are appreciated best in winter such as the variegated types especially if grown together with dogwoods, maples with coloured bark and winter flowering heathers such as Erica carnea to create a winter garden.
In the rock garden the dwarf saxifrages which can smother the ground, flower in late March at the same time as early tulip Scarlet Baby. Another excellent attractive rock garden plant is the mauve red Sedum spathulifolium purpureum. Plant the tulips adjacent but not amongst these plants.
In mid spring it is the Doronicums with bright yellow flowers that make a splash especially if under planted with mauve and red early flowering tulips. Doronicums grow about a foot tall, so plant a drift of scarlet phlox subulata next to them. The phlox hugs the ground and flowers at the same time. From spring to early summer the dwarf Japanese azaleas take over the display for several weeks. They are easy to grow, happy in sun or dappled shade with a well drained but moist soil.
In summer good ground cover plants include the lemon yellow flowering Euphorbia polychroma, the mauve Campanula, the yellow and mauve succulents Delosperma and the white Shasta daisy. Although many heathers flower all summer the late flowering Calluna H E Beale is a real show stopper and makes a perfect ground cover plant.
In autumn it is time for the berried plants to take over such as numerous types of Cotoneaster and Pernettyas, though the latter needs a male pollinator as the berried plants are all female.
Most plants have now gone dormant as winter approaches, but some vegetables such as Swiss chard and rocket continue to grow slowly, just enough to balance replacing shoots as you pick them for use. They are both valuable health giving vegetables packed with goodness to keep using them into winter. Remove any flower shoots that develop on rocket and chard so the plants can retain their strength for growing young hardy shoots.