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Vermont Garden Journal: Ground Covers

AP Photo/Dean Fosdick
Japanese Painted Fern.

There's only one thing I hate more than swatting Japanese beetles, it's weeding around trees and shrubs. Sure I could mulch them all with bark, but it looks kind of dull and uniform. I crave some color and the solution is shade-loving, flowering ground covers. But instead of growing the common vinca or pachysandra, consider some more colorful alternatives.  Here are some options.

We all know ajuga or bugleweed. It's a widely adapted ground cover that grows in part to full shade. It gives us some color with its blue flower in spring but often becomes a weed escaping into lawns. Here's a better ajuga. 'Burgundy Glow' has white, pink and green leaves a well as the blue flower. It brightens and adds color under plants even when its not blooming and it's not as an aggressive spreader.

Tired of your fern's ubiquitous green color? Try the Japanese painted fern. These beautiful, low-growing ferns have striking silver foliage with wine red mixed in. They grow well in a shady spot reaching only a foot tall. And they spread by underground rhizomes to fill in an area.

Yellow archangel or lamiastrum, grows similar to its cousin lamium, but is more shade tolerant. It grows 1 foot tall, produces yellow flowers in early summer and the leaves are variegated with silver. It's in the mint family so you know it will spread well as a ground cover, especially in dry shade.

For very shady spots consider another mint relative, Meehan's mint. It's a rare ground cover that will produce blue flowers in late spring n dark shade or full sun. It spreads well in moist soils, but tolerates some dry shade. It's not as aggressive as regular mint.

Now for this week's tip, plant your last crop of bush beans now for fall. Pull out the bolted lettuce, yellowing peas or dying cucumber plants, amend the soil with some fresh compost and sow. You'll have fresh beans for September.

Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about some unusual melons. Until then,  I'll be seeing you in the garden.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and

'Burgundy Glow' ajuga
Japanese Painted Fern
Lamiastrum Meehan's Mint

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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