ALONG THE DEER PATH
Groundcovers they will leave alone!
by Carolyn Singer
April 12, 2008
I have seen landscapes in the foothills where the deer paths were well-worn. A new home placed on such a path, with the front and back doors open, might just have an unexpected visitor inside!
While groundcovers may be growing in the best browsing zone, there are many deer-resistant choices for the foothill landscape. And most spread quickly, to three to four feet or more.
One of my favorites for shade or semi-shade is the creeping raspberry (Rubus calycinoides). The local Briar Patch near Sierra College has utilized this low creeper on the slope just north of the building. A very fast spreader, Rubus calycinoides sends out long trailers from the primary crown. Where it touches the ground or mulch at the leaf axils, new roots form.
This is not a high-irrigation groundcover. With good soil preparation, and a mulch of two to three inches, Rubus will thrive with irrigation once every two weeks once it has established.
Rubus may also be walked on (not barefoot!), and may be a good solution where pets often run into the landscape. This is a tough plant. Sweet little white flowers on short stems are interesting but not colorful. They fade into the new growth after bloom. No maintenance is needed with this groundcover.
Another good spreader is Lamium maculatum, and there are many cultivars to choose from, including 'White Nancy' for deep shade and 'Roseum' for partial sun. The more green in the leaf, the more sun this plant will tolerate.
While its irrigation requirements are higher than Rubus, Lamium must have good drainage and should not be over-watered. Bloom begins in spring and continues throughout the summer.
Mrs. Robb's bonnet (Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae) spreads aggressively in shade, even where there is competition with tree roots for nutrients and moisture. This beautiful evergreen is a taller groundcover, which means that leaves and even pine needles will fall through it and add to the mulch.
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is an attractive low-irrigation groundcover for partial shade. Spread is by stolons. Delicate but lush bright-green foliage is highlighted in late spring with tiny white flowers. This groundcover is dormant in winter.
For sun, one of my favorite choices for groundcover is thyme (Thymus), with many colors of foliage to choose from, including every imaginable shade of green. All are evergreen, making selection of foliage color even more important than flower color.
Irrigation of thyme with gray foliage may be as low as once every three weeks in the heat of summer. In my rock garden, thyme with green foliage does best with irrigation once every two weeks. Flower color of most species and cultivars includes white, and many shades of pink.
Adding colorful beauty to local gardens with sunny walls is creeping phlox (Phlox subulata). It's time to take a walk in our neighborhoods and enjoy this bright harbinger of spring.
©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.
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