There are some of us who enjoy the winter when the ground -- and especially our lawns -- are covered with a blanket of white snow. It hides so many sins. Then comes the spring, and our lawns' bare spots crop up. Ouch.
Year-round lawn maintenance seems like a daunting task for some, yet there are others who make it look so easy. What's the trick to a lush and attractive yard that doesn't require the expense of a professional weekly lawn service?
Professional landscapers say the choice of ground cover can make all of the difference between well-worn bare spots and a lawn that retains seemingly effortless beauty. Depending on your needs, the use of the area, climate and rain, visiting wildlife and the amount of sunshine, the right creeping perennials and foliage can minimize your mowing, maintenance and watering schedules.
Some of the most popular choices for ground cover include a mix of plantings; the diversity fosters plant health and creates attractive texture and focal points to your property. Using low-growing plants that tolerate some walking mixed with patio stones or pavers make for excellent and durable walkways. You can also choose 100 percent recycled rubber pavers for your walkways. These look like stone, are maintenance-free and are long-lasting.
Creeping perennials grow thick and close to the ground and form carpet-like textures. Some popular choices include chamomile, Corsican mint, assorted thymes, clover and Veronica liwanensis. Many of these crops have the added benefit of pleasant fragrances, attractive flowers and dense root systems that discourage weeds.
Clover is not the weed many people mistake it to be; a grass/clover seed mix grows quickly, stands up to foot traffic, is resistant to drought, is inexpensive and produces a white bloom which benefits the natural bee population. Many low growing perennials react well to occasional mowing, which will help the clover bloom more frequently.
Veronica liwanensis is a dense, drought-resistant evergreen ground cover and produces beautiful small blue flowers. Veronica liwanensis stands up well to light foot traffic and propagates easily by dividing and spreading the clumps. When planted around steppingstones, this foliage makes an excellent walkway. It does require adequate drainage and tends to turn an attractive bronze under the hot dry sun.
Creeping bugleweed plants create low-lying borders that go well at the edges of walkways and ponds. The plants grow only a few inches high and thrive in either drought or bogs. Bugleweed tends to be hardy and offer variegated leaves and flowers that add delightful colors to your garden. It does well in shade and also offers bright bronze or burgundy hues under the hot sun. There are multiple varieties, including Burgundy Glow, Bronze Beauty, Black Scallop, Catlin's Giant and Sunny Blue Deer.
Catmints grow about a foot tall with bright blooms of blue (Nepeta racemosa) or 2- to 3-foot and lavender-colored blooms (Walker's Low). The fragrance attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Although it is distantly related to catnip, the genus is not the same; catmint is more colorful, and catnip has a stronger fragrance. These plants do best in a mild nutritive-rich soil with good drainage. Catmints bloom in the late spring and can stay in full bloom well into the fall to provide a tall, colorful wall around the yard.
Smooth bromegrass is a cool season perennial grass that can grow 4 to 6 feet high and offers erosion control. It tolerates drought conditions, extreme temperatures and less than perfect soils, but it can become invasive, so it might grow beyond the design borders you have in mind. It is also excellent if you have livestock or want to contribute to hungry wildlife.
If you have buildings you would like to hide, or at least integrate into your landscaping, you can look into ivy. Ivy tends to grow several feet high, has flowery blooms, is generally drought-resistant, does well in full sun and can tolerate occasional foot traffic. Ivy is not recommended next to porous walls but does very well planted against solid masonry. Its large, bright leaves can camouflage unsightly walls and rock outcroppings.