Enormous areas of the Earth are covered with shorter plant varieties, where grasses are in the majority (pampas, prairies). What we do with our lawns is create extremely poor mono vegetation, compared to nature. A lawn mix often consists of no more than four varieties of grass, and nothing else is allowed to grow there. Nature will strive to correct this.
Advantages of established groundcover plants:
- Once groundcover has properly established itself, virtually no weeds can get through it.
- Another advantage is that the soil temperature below the layer of plants remains more even, which is good for all the plant roots.
- Moisture retention in the soil underneath groundcover is often also better because the water does not evaporate as quickly. That also cuts down on the need to water.
- You can allow bulb and tuber crops to run wild under low groundcover, which will enrich the garden.
- Groundcover certainly does not need to consist of perennials. There are also enough low shrubs and conifers which offer excellent groundcover. Most groundcover requires virtually no maintenance. Of course it does need food and water, but often nothing else is required. You will have to cut back particularly rampant varieties from time to time. There are many evergreen varieties. They can also flower magnificently.
Possibilities for a sunny spot:
- Acaena buchananii (New Zealand burr)
- Phlox subulata (moss phlox) pink/white/purple/blue/red
- Sagina subulata (heath pearlwort)
- Sedum album (white stonecrop)
- Sedum spathulifolium (stonecrop)
Possibilities for a shaded spot
- Ajuga reptans (bugle)
- Arabis procurrens (rockcress)
- Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
- Epimedium x rubrum (bishop’s hat)
- Saxifraga cuneifolia (saxifrage)
- Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower)
- Waldsteinia ternata
Alternatives for the lawn
The battle against weeds on a lawn never ends. Grass is an excellent groundcover for walking on, but very hard work. Of all the groundcovering plants, grass is most resilient to heavy use. Play or sports lawn mixes are the toughest.
Alternatives such as roman camomile (Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’), thyme (Thymus), Cotula squalida or biddy-biddy (Acaena novae-zelandiae) are not really able to cope with intensive and regular foot traffic. Thyme does release a gorgeous scent when you walk on it. Moss is also unsuitable.