Home gardeners tend to think of plants as belonging in specific categories. Ground covers are obviously cover-the-ground plants, but that is only the beginning. Looking beyond a ground cover’s traditional use opens up many creative possibilities. All it takes is the desire to do something different. Ground covers can satisfy nearly all the senses—touch, taste, smell, and sight—so give your imagination free rein in putting these versatile plants to use.
Drape, Trail, and Climb
Some ground covers climb or trail as easily as they spread along the ground. For example. woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) can be encouraged to cover an old log, and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) can add character and color to a brick wall. Wintercreeper (Euonymus) can climb to frame a doorway; and creeping Charlie (Lysimachia nummularia) can trail to fill in the nooks and crannies in a rock garden.
Look at ground covers with a discriminating eye. Is a particular plant best at eye level, or better to look up at or down upon? Carefully consider the plant’s form and growth habit interms of the vertical dimension. since what grows horizontally on the ground might do some interesting things when planted where it will drape or climb.
Ivy (Hedera) does equally well trailing down a steep slope or vining along a porch or trellis. Cotoneaster adds texture as it spills over a stone wall. Honeysuckle (Lonicera), when planted in a hanging basket and left to its own devices, may twine itself into a giant green braid.
Make use of the myriad colors and color combinations of all kinds of ground covers: a yellow-tipped juniper (Juniperus procumbens‘Variegata’). a silver-edged thyme (Thymus vulgaris‘Argenteus’). or a white-tinged periwinkle (Vinca minor ‘Argenteo-variegate’). Plant variegated varieties in a window box and let them drape in colorful contrast against the house. Create a spring bouquet of periwinkle and pansies. or mix green ground covers trailing over the front of a planter with bright yellow snapdragons or red zinnias behind them.
Build a lath arch or trellis around a window and let honeysuckle frame the view. Plant dwarf firethorn (Pyracantha) in a window box below the arch. Hummingbirds will come for the honeysuckle nectar and other birds for the bright red firethorn berries.