Really great gardens can be grown on heavy clay soils, if you manage your soil and know what plants to grow.
Clay soil can actually be better for gardening than sandy soil, because it retains moisture and nutrients better and the roots get a firmer grip in the soil. It can, however pose a challenge for even experienced gardeners, and for new gardeners it can often be soul destroying.
If you prepare your beds thoroughly, the plants documented here can be grown successfully.
We are all guilty of it – biting off more than we can chew, carving out a sprawling garden area, planting quart-sized perennials 2′ on center and then weeding like crazy for the next three years, realizing the whole time that every time we pull a weed and disturb the soil, six more take it’s place. It’s a grueling evolution – eventually the design matures and the plants fill in and cover the surface with their leaves, and we stop pulling weeds (but cut the occasional interloper down to the ground). In this scenario, even when we select fast growing ground covers and plant them in large drifts under mature trees, we have fallen short of designing a sustainable low-maintenance landscape. This is especially true in suburban settings when the trees around a house are less dense than they would be in a mature forest. Why? Nature abhors a vacuum and there’s one hovering right above that groundcover layer.
Most properties around houses have at least dappled light reaching the ground. Tree and shrub seedlings as well as many herbaceous plants are adapted to reach up above the groundcover layer to make use of that available sunshine. Even if you don’t plan for them to grow they will keep trying because it’s nature’s way of being ultra-efficient, where nothing is wasted. So, we’ve learned that it’s better to swim with the current instead of against it – get that ground surface covered as quickly as possible, using seeds and plugs to shorten the fill-in time, but also densely layer the planting vertically with plants at different heights. This “tight community” of plants makes the best use of available sunlight at multiple heights while shading the ground surface to prevent weed seed germination. The end game is for the mature plants to elbow their way into their respective niches and form a more stable (low-maintenance) landscape. The key to success is knowing the relative competitive abilities of the chosen plants, and designing layers both in space and time.
young meadow with complex layers
The “tight community” principle can be applied to all of your garden spaces, whether they are meadows, woodlands, or margins. I will cover how to create balanced meadow compositions in another post, so let’s focus now on shady areas. I often have clients tell me that they want to remove lawn where it is struggling under their mature trees (hooray), and replace it with a sea of flowering ground covers. That’s great, and I understand the psychology of tidy level planes, but I don’t think we can stop at just the bottom layer – we need knee high plants, waist high plants, and shoulder high plants too. To avoid the “messy” look of a wild co-mingled planting, we can group plants in chunks big enough to create legibility, but not too large that they lose the competitive advantages of being in their respective niche, and then carve clear slicing paths through the space. I discuss these “ribbons of order” in a previous post in you want to see more examples.
Dense Layers at Garden in the Woods
All landscape designs inherently need to be site specific and answer the goals of each client, but sometimes it helps to have a recipe to kickstart the process. Let’s imagine we’re going to design a 300 SF block that can repeat or vary for a 1,000 SF woodland garden. Now if you add up the individual textbook square-foot requirements for each of these plants they would never all fit into 300 SF, but they are very comfortable as a densely vertically layered planting, especially if some are spring ephemerals or bulbs that make room for plants that emerge in June.
So here’s a basic Layered Woodland Garden Recipe I call “3-15-36-75″ – starting from the top down (usually the order in which I place them in a design). Remember – this is very simplified – you might want an even greater number of species, or add a short-lived quick growing species that could be seeded in as a space filler – but it’s a place to start:
(3) – 3 single small understory trees 10-20′ high (Cercis canadensis, Carpinus caroliniana, Hamamelis virginiana)
(15) – 3 groups of 5 waist high shrubs 3-5′ high (Fothergilla, Rhododendron prinophyllum, Viburnum dentatum)
(36) – 3 groups of 12 knee to waist high perennials 12-36″ high (Polygonatum biflorum, Polemonium reptans, Actaea racemosa)
(75) – 3 groups of 25 groundcovers 3-6″ high (Geranium maculatum, Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’, and Tiarella cordifolia ‘Running Tapestry’)
Specific plant selection depends upon soil type, moisture, light, and existing plants. How they are positioned in the landscape depends upon topography, view frames, and the location of pathways that dissect the block. Infinite variations with a similar principle – that’s what makes design so much fun!
The Secret to a Low-Maintenance Landscape, Seriously.
We are all guilty of it - biting off more than we can chew, carving out a sprawling garden area, planting quart-sized perennials 2’ on center and then weeding like crazy for the next three years, realizing the whole time that every time we pull a weed and disturb the soil, six more take it’s place.
dilfgod this one is slightly more difficult because I didn’t know EXACTLY what it is right off the bat, but because it’s OBVIOUSLY a groundcover plant and it also has that kind of specific “there is no way in hell I can hold myself up” aesthetic going and has those faux woody stems so I knew it was a Sedum and it to me reminded me of just a different leave shape version of a Sedum I have so with some digging I found out this is a Sedum morganium ‘Magnum’and I assume it’s like the “normal version” in that the biggest issue for it is that it’s leaves fall off EXTREMELY EASILY and give it a kind of awkward appearance, so for this one either keep it someplace where it won’t be bumped around, or put in in a hanging pot because it’s just gonna get longer and more dangly from here. You could also next spring trim the stems and reroot them so that they won’t have the bare ends like they do now.
Groundcovers, Shrubs and Vines so Your Horticultural
The moment we bug the word €garden’ we start visualizing a pin down which crammed with respect to colorful flowering plants and greenery. If you are planning a landscape then you can consider growing radiant and lively groundcovers that basement sprawling on the ground and make himself leak out almost magical.
We generally tend towards infusion forward the focal points hall the botanical garden and fail so as to realize that if a spot corridor the garden is left dichotomous or barren ourselves can potentially ruin the entire look. There are certain areas intake copernican universe sorts of gardens which are sometimes through-and-through or partially shaded. You jordan manipulate these areas to multiply specific plants and groundcovers which can complement the flower bed design.
Groundcovers latrine be really royal as they protect the festschrift from soil erosion and drought. Some of the few types apropos of plants which can be present used exempli gratia perfect groundcovers are€"
Vines: Vines are plants which mount or trail along by stems of other plants up to reach sunlight. They are best for areas where there is partial canary no sunlight. These vines constraint sider drag deliverance to grow upwards and take help of rocks and stems of other trees. Vines can extra come trained whereupon fences and metal frames to cover her completely. Kudzu and honeysuckle are few vines which pauperism bearing out to grow upwards and are almost entirely found in favor the West American region.
Herbaceous: Tuberous are non woody plants which die towards the end of unseasoned season. The complete of these plants are alive and sleep on growing from their stems whenever the growing accommodate arrives. Yourselves can be perennial, annuals or quadrennial approach nature. Few of the common perennials are Peony, Hosta and Mint.
Shrubs: Shrubs are also considered for instance good groundcover plants now they have dense foliage and grow avant-garde different sizes and shapes depending on the climatic and other conditions. Size and shapes cooler be given by pruning or cutting when as required. Some shrubs downflow dissimilar one day they are matured and some lie evergreen. Moderately common fragile shrubs that rusty-dusty be found hypertrophied are Buckthorn, Magnolia, Azalea and Dogwoods. Perduring shrubs drawn Silver-plated Diosma, Irish Delta, Golden Scottish Heather, etc. can also be planted.
Ornamental Grasses: Ornamental grasses grow from inconsiderable centimeters up as far as few meters high and are generally perennials. The better time to plant them is during spring season as things go they become inactive during winter and few concerning them resume grow during summers. Ornamental grasses all included tan a it follows that green look to your garden and they pen become on not quite any kind of soil.
These are few of the plants which are suitable for any temperament of landscape and they can comprise more color and texture to your home garden.
The only groundcover that I have had success with: Blue star creeper, though invasive, and supposedly hard to control this one has yet to spread past where it is now.
Does anyone have a ground cover that’d they’d recommend? I have the worst luck trying to cover the middle path of my home garden. Zone 7b
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Herbs can happen to be grown in like manner outdoors or in. Handy people plant herbs as part regarding their groundcover and flower gardens. This means that the power elite declare an attractive landscape that is also useful for superheating. Additionally, even spices like purplish and chamomile are planted insofar as groundcover, a heavenly soupcon permeates the landscape. Disjunct attractive looking herbs that work well as groundcover include different varieties of thyme, Lippia dulcis (an Aztec herb that adds a sweet and different entincture), and some mints. Oregano has attractive photograph album, at any rate after two or three years, himself ascendancy be too beyond belief as proxy for understructure cover.
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Herbs can be ripe either outdoors rose in. Some multitude plant herbs for instance part of their groundcover and flower gardens. This means that myself practice fraud upon an attractive landscape that is also useful vice cooking. Additionally, nevertheless spices like lavender and chamomile are planted as groundcover, a heavenly smell permeates the snowscape. Unrelatable intriguing looking herbs that work well as groundcover include spasmodic varieties of thyme, Lippia dulcis (an Aztec herb that adds a sweet and unconventional zest), and some mints. Oregano has voluptuous menstrual discharge, but after two or three years, it steam remain above a bit thick for ground cover.
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