Groundcover Questions

Mary Sue Ittner
Fri, 16 Aug 2002 18:34:46 PDT
Dear Cathy,

One of the nice things about the plants Jane is suggesting is that they are 
for the most part plants that can survive without a lot of summer water. 
That is a very good thing for an area like yours where there is so little 
natural rainfall.

I had groundcovers in Stockton that worked well and bulbs came up between 
them, but many of them needed to be mowed occasionally to look good (thyme 
was one of those) which I wouldn't think you'd want to do on a slope and 
others began to look a bit scruffy without regular water. I have mentioned 
before that I like Kunzea pomifera. I don't know how easy it would be to 
get down there, but perhaps Andrew could suggest a source. It spreads over 
a wide area (like Arctostaphylos uva-ursi which is another great choice 
Jane suggested), and doesn't really root much as it goes so things could 
come up easily through it. It is low growing, doesn't need much water, has 
white fluffy flowers in spring followed by the fruit which looks like 
little apples, hence the name.

I have found a silver low growing Epilobium (formerly Zauschneria) that has 
bright orange-red flowers right now that I like a lot. This one was 
probably a cultivar of some kind that I have lost the name of and is quite 
delightful right now, but it does get very ratty during our wet winters so 
I just cut it back all the way when it starts to look that way and that 
might be too labor intensive for you. In the spring it shoots out and grows 
again. It does spread a bit by underground runners, but isn't too hard to 

Another silver plant I am fond of that doesn't need a lot of summer water 
and is low is Helichrysum argyrophyllus 'Mo's Gold'. It has yellow 
straw-like flowers in the fall.

You might explore native ground covers from your area as well. My lotus 
seems to be working for me, but my slope is gentle. It is starting to look 
a little less attractive now, but still hasn't lost all its leaves. In the 
fall I'll cut it all back and then the bulbs will come up and do their 
thing and then it will start to shoot out and cover the ground. It hasn't 
gotten ANY rain or watering since our last rain which I think maybe was in May.

Mary Sue

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