WHY LOOK DOWN?
--- Anne K Moore February 9, 2009 ---
Photos by Anne K Moore ---
habits are hard to break. We spend our
childhood learning to walk with eyes forward.
We are taught to meet life head-on, to look them in the eye! It is now time to look down, to acknowledge
those bare spots in the garden, and cover them.
add interest to edges and make great fillers under tall plants. Marlberry (Ardisia
japonica) has glossy mid-green leaves with reddish stems and red berries. Although a shrub, it only gets about 18
inches tall. It will take about three
years to jump into all of the open spaces in the warm areas, USDA Zones 7-9.
you want to keep intruders out of a section of your garden, place prickly
creepers like a carpet rose in the area.
On the other hand, if you want to welcome someone down a garden lane,
substitute cushiony and hospitable plants between the stepping-stones. Any of the fragrant thymes would be a soft
choice for a well-drained area. Use the
less fussy dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon ‘Nana’)
to soften Southern difficult sites. Use
sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) in
the North. Fairy bells, also called
bishop’s hat (Epemedium) isn’t used
enough in gardens North or South.
bright green southern shield ferns (Thelypteris
kunthii), located along pathway edges, will fill in shady areas and even
take some sun, spreading around season upon season. They are fair-weather ferns, dying back in
winter and reappearing in the spring.
This fern is a native south easterner and can be difficult to find. Look for it at Master Gardener plant
sales. It is a passalong plant. Japanese Painted ferns (Athyrium nipponicum) come in rainbow colors and many heights
and are readily available.
groundcovers, like pachysandra, can lead the eye to a grander image. A statue or fountain placed in the middle or
behind this carpet takes on importance. Or
the low growing, creeping plumbago, (Ceratostigma
plumbaginoides) can stop you for a closer look. This plant makes a statement. Deep blue flowers show off amidst bright
green leaves on red stems.
will welcome dry, sunny spots, if you have ever grown the ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) with its fleshy
leaves and fuchsia-pink daisy flowers. If
fuchsia isn’t to your liking, try the newer ‘Starburst’ ice plant with lavender
flowers. Another dry-soil sun worshiper
is the purple and pink sedum ‘Vera
What could be more elegant
in the shade than variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’)? In wet shade, try the black and green leaved
elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta ‘Illustris’). It stays put in dry shade but multiplies
quickly in wet, even boggy, areas. It
will die back but survives Southern winters in the ground. It needs digging in colder areas, USDA Zones
6 and lower.
come in many leaf shapes and flower colors.
Helleborus niger is
the Christmas rose with beautiful white flowers. Helleborus
Orientalis is our much-loved Lenten Rose, the one
hybridizers have remade into choice flower colors, from almost black to
freckled white. Helleborus foetidus has striking deep green and finely cut foliage. All are welcome additions to a shady garden.
some groundcovers invasive? Not if they
are doing what they were born to do, cover up bare dirt and choke out weeds. If they tend to escape into the wild
environment, then they are invasive. For
a list of these noxious plants, go to http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver.
you might ask, are the liriopes, the ajugas, the hostas, and periwinkles? Look down.
They are everywhere.