Ground Covers ?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by BASIC, May 7, 2005.

  1. BASIC

    BASIC LawnSite Member
    Posts: 83

    Hi,I'm looking for suggestions on ground covers to plant for a customer(I've never done this before).It has to be low maintenance and will be used on a slope.The customer currently has the area mulched and and it needs to be redone,he asked me to come up with some alternatives for him.Thankyou for any help,BASIC.
  2. Kate Butler

    Kate Butler LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 640

    'Ground cover' covers a multitude of possibilites. Does your client want a taller sort (to 2') or something lower? Keep in mind that the lower the ground cover, the more likely that weeds (and their seeds) will come up through it. Taller perennial ground covers not only crowd out the weeds and germinating seeds with their ever-expanding growth patterns, but will shade the soil to prevent seeds that require light from germinating. Many people go with one form or another of the prostrate junipers, but my experiences with them have been mostly painful: they are hard to work with and don't exclude enough light to suppress weed germination. If they've got to have evergreens, go with microbiota decussata (Siberian false cypress) - they look like junipers, have a denser growth habit, and are NOT PRICKLY. They are slow spreaders by comparision to junipers, but do a better job of providing thick, shady cover to the surrounding soil.

    You must take into consideration the actual grade of the slope: the steeper the slope, the more necessary a planting with a sturdy enough root system to keep the slope in place. And the more necessary a higher number of plants (more plants, more roots) to hold it all together.

    Does your client want "instant gratification" ground cover? Huge bucks for loads of plants in a large area. Is the slope in imminent danger of erosion without the proposed planting? If it's already been herbicided, it needs to be planted quickly because of potential erosion if it rains heavily (when whatever's planted there now dies).

    Does the client want cheap or beautiful? It's very difficult to have both. There are many questions you must ask your client before you decide what to plant.

    With the information you've given, I'm leaning toward a mad mix of dwarf daylilies (hemerocallis). There are many colors, some are rebloomers, and bloom times can be staggered (with different varieties) so there is always something blooming from early summer till hard frost. There are also some fine prostrate roses - just make sure you can use something like Preen over the top of 'em to control grassy weeds. Is your area warm enough to winter over liriope? It's another fine, spreading ground cover. You could also look into the ornamental grasses: not all of them are giants, but they do spread well. Geranium sanguineum is a possibility.

    I'm sure other folks here will have many other suggestions. Good luck.
  3. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    Depends upon how sloped the site is but I use the overused creeping or prosrate rosemarys on the top of the slope and then an invasive cover below that.Sometimes you have to terrace to get an area to plant in.
  4. BASIC

    BASIC LawnSite Member
    Posts: 83

    Yhankyou both for your replys,i now why I usually just cut grass and not landscape.Is there a simple(for me),cheap(for him),answer?The slope is about 35-40 degree.We're in zone 5.Thankyou again,BASIC.
  5. Kate Butler

    Kate Butler LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 640

    Simple? Yes. Cheap? No. Is the area a large one? 35º-40º of slope is fairly steep: I can understand your reluctance to mow it regularly. Have you considered treating the existing grass with a growth regulator to reduce the necessity for mowing?

    Give the client the options (print this forum discussion) and let him/her decide.
  6. BASIC

    BASIC LawnSite Member
    Posts: 83

    Ms.Butler,ma'am,right now the area is mulched(it does need to be replaced),with some plantings.The customer is looking for a lower cost/lower maintenance alternative.I think the area is fairly large.Do you or anyone else have any suggestions?I primarily mow,trim and do cleanups,please excuse my ignorance.Mulching the whole are every couple of years seems like a huge waste of money on the customers part.Thankyou very muck again for your kind help,BASIC.
  7. Kate Butler

    Kate Butler LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 640

    Basic, you are scaring me with that "ma'am" stuff - I know I'm old, just would rather not be reminded so frequently :laugh:

    Do you mean that right now it's just mulch over reasonably bare ground? Is it weedy through the mulch? Grassy weeds or tall, stalky things like mullein and burdock? I know I'm asking a lot of questions, but it's better to really know what you have to work with than to punt and deal with callbacks later.

    There's a spreading and beautiful member of the dock family called polygonum affine 'superba'. It has lovely green leaves and long-lasting bloom spikes that go to about 14". It spreads very quickly (doubles in size every season in Zone 3 - would probably go faster where you are). If you can't find it at a reasonable price (it ought to be reasonable, considering how fast it multiplies), how about any of the taller ajugas? Or mid-height sedums??

    So-ooo many choices for ground covers.
  8. BASIC

    BASIC LawnSite Member
    Posts: 83

    Ms.Butler,miss,your not asking to many questions,I appreciate all your help.The area is coverd buy bare ground with old mulch ontop,theres some junipers(the only plant I can identify)and some other plantings.When the weeds start coming up,I cut them back so I really don't know what they are,though I think tall grassy types.
    If i may ask you an unrelated question about Vermont?My wife,daughter and I would like to move out of NJ in the next couple of years.We're looking for a more rural,less crowded,safer and nicer place to live.How is Vermont,I understand theres alot of people moving there from the city(we are not from the city,nor are we typical of NJ),how are new people accepted by the locals?What is the job market like?My wife drives a school bus,911 operator and an EMT,I'm a landscaper(I cut grass),plow snow, and have managed gun stores in the past.Hows the cost of living,property and taxes/Can you recommend places to look.I've heard the North East Kingdom is beautiful and its very different than what the rest of Vermont is becoming.If you'd like please PM or e-mail me.
    Thankyou a gain for your kindness,BASIC.
  9. nocutting

    nocutting LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 530

    Hey Nj, try useing "Crown Vetch", the PA. DPW uses it on all the sloped areas they dont want to mow?....It maintains a height of about 12-14inches, flowers most of the summer, just rough out some mid point areas on the slope to start it [ you know areas 3ft by 6ft] its very invasive, will start growin up hill & the run-off will help to establish it on the lower edge.....The seed is on the high end $ 14.00 per lb, but I'm sure if you ask "Sheshovel" she'll get it for you cheap, ship to you for nothing, and drive over 1 weekend to help you out just for a cup of coffee / oh, probably "Herb Tea" :angel:
  10. NNJLandman

    NNJLandman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,306


    Think about a boulder scape i.e. placing large rocks hodge podge around on the hill side with various shrubs around, thats one look ive seen performed before and has turned out nicely. If your looking for a ground cover try a Blue Rug Juniper, Packisandra. The Juniper you see around a lot on hill sides, spreads fairly quickly and will cover up a hillside nicely. Let me know if you need any help or have any other questions since im right in the area.


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