What I like about the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence is that I can pick up one of her books like Beautiful at All Seasons edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson and start reading anywhere and find myself nodding my head in agreement.
On ground cover, Lawrence wrote, “There are two difficulties with ground covers: first to get them to grow, and then to get them not to… Once established the ground cover begins to travel, and then it may travel too far. A plant that is hard to keep in bounds may give the gardener more trouble that it saves.”
Ain’t that the truth.
Last fall, I dug out all kinds of English Ivy (Hedera helix) from a foundation planting. The ivy had taken over and pretty much wiped out three Deutzia shrubs and made it nearly impossible to dig out and replace two Hypericums that had succumbed to a nasty infestation of bagworms. And having conquered that bed, the ivy was making its way at an alarming speed around the corner toward some barberries.
As I pulled all that ivy out…, wait, “pulled” is too mild a word… as I yanked, dug, and hacked that ivy out, I wondered what had possessed me to think that I, a mere gardener, could control that ivy.
Indeed why would any gardener in their right mind plant ground cover?
I found, as Lawrence noted, that ground cover can be hard to get started, then equally hard to control. She wrote in another column, “First there is the difficulty of getting the plants established, and once they cover the ground they are meant to cover, they are apt to be equally hard to restrain.”
She wrote further in both columns about ground cover plants she had used effectively, and though some of those she included might not be hardy in my garden, a few of them are. But reading about those plants not hardy in my garden doesn’t bother me because though she often wrote about specific plants, she also wrote a lot about gardening that I can apply to my own garden.
For example, her advice on preparing beds for planting ground covers is advice that any gardener can use. To sum it up, her advice was, “preparing the ground thoroughly before planting, and getting rid of all roots of Bermuda grass”.
I just substitute bluegrass for Bermuda grass and that advice applies to me, too.
I know, because I’ve ended up with bluegrass in my ground cover and it is nearly impossible to weed out. In fact, I believe that the degree of difficulty of weeding in ground cover is many times greater than weeding in areas without ground cover.
At least that’s been my experience.
But still I love ground cover! I love how it looks under plants, hides bare stems and softens the edges of the bricks I have around some beds. I love the look of the Vinca minor, pictured above, when it blooms in the spring.
So I'm going to keep planting ground covers and enjoying them. But hopefully, I won't have to resort to removing any, like I had to remove the ivy.
I hope you have the opportunity to read some of the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence, a passionate plantswoman, gardener, and writer, who wrote about the plants and gardens she loved, and freely gave gardening advice to the many who enjoyed her books, faithfully read her columns in the Charlotte Observer newspaper, exchanged letters with her or visited her gardens in Charlotte, NC.
It is nearly time for the next "virtual meeting " post for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. To participate, just read something by Elizabeth Lawrence like the book selection Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson, or any of her books, and post a book review, your own insights on her writings, your favorite quotes, etc. on your blog before May 31st.
Then let me know via a comment or email about your post and I’ll include a link to it in a book club “virtual meeting” post to be posted late on May 31st. All are welcome to participate!