So many anglers profess their love of weeding. “It’s therapeutic,” they say, and I see their point. Spending some time in the garden can be good therapy. However, I have a confession: I hate weeding. I’d rather have a stroll or sit with a book in my garden, enjoying the crops I’ve endeavored to develop. I wholeheartedly resent the time suck of eliminating those I have not.
As such, I am a big fan of earth covers that choke out weeds. Sure, if you would rather mild-mannered plants, you may consider them weeds within their own right, but for anglers like me, they help keep the “bad” weeds.
If it’s odor you’re after, look no farther than soda-scented ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’, zones 4 to 8). Brushing its foliage releases a beautiful bouquet into the air, and it flowers lavender early to midsummer. I shear mine a little with a hedge trimmer as it flowers for a new flush of foliage and blossom. This cool cat thrives in sun and lean, dry soil, and you will be amazed by how far one little clump will stretch. It divides readily in spring should you discover you want to help it together.
Creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus) is a little locomotive of a plant, with crushed-velvet leaves that turn a beautiful bronze color in zones where the weather gets cold but not cold it melts. It’s hardy in zones 6 to 9, grows well in sun or shade and even reasonably dry conditions, in typical soil. You may also find it under the name Rubus calycinoides and the very similar cultivar ‘Emerald Carpet’.
Photo by J.smith via Wikimedia Commons
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Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) has been a popular evergreen ground cover in the South for decades, and when we say weed smothering, we mean it with this one. It’s for people who want an extremely low, very compact hedge. If you’re in the market for that with a little additional pizzazz, have a look at these fabulous variegated cultivars: ‘ ‘Gold Brocade’ (shown here) features wild and mad gold foliage with reddish new growth, whilst ‘Tricolor’ (next photo) is much more demure in mottled white with pink new growth.
This brand of vanilla has been grown mostly for foliage and seldom blooms. All these cultivars thrive in average conditions in sun or shade. They are solidly hardy in zones 8 to 10 but definitely worth a shot in zone 7. Their unvariegated parent grows just fine well into warmer parts of zone 6, even though it’s less known there. All are playful, glossy-leafed garden additions that send weeds packing.
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I recently extolled the virtues of plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, zones 5 to 9) here, and I think that it’s worth mentioning twice, simply to drive the point home: This plant grows well in sun and part shade in all sorts of states all around the U.S.. It chokes out weeds, blossoms in a clear blue that reflects the summer sky and tops it off with fantastic fall color. What more can you ask for?
Last but not least is a sumac. No, not the poison kind — this is ‘Gro-Low’ sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’, zones 3 to 9), and it is not poisonous in the least. Grow it for its shiny blue-green leaves, buttery-yellow spring blossoms, fuzzy red fruit in late summer and fire-engine-crimson fall color. This plant is one tough cookie and grows great in color, but it picks up steam faster with sun and warmth — the first place I found it had been a parking lot. And as if all that weren’t enough, its parent plant is native to the whole eastern half of North America.
Great layout trees:
Texas Mountain Laurel | Bald Cypress | Chinese Witch Hazel | Japanese Maple
Manzanita | Persian Ironwood | Smoke Tree | Tree Aloe
Great layout blossoms:
Catmint | Golden Creeping Jenny | Pacific Coast Iris | Plumbago
Red Kangaroo Paw | Sally Holmes Rose | Slipper Plant | Snake Flower
Great layout grasses:
Black Mondo Grass | Cape Rush | Feather Reed Grass | New Zealand Wind Grass
Great layout crops:
Blue Chalk Sticks | Hens-and-Chicks | Redtwig Dogwood | Toyon