Tag Archives: ajuga

Ground cover plants are a must for every garden and gardener

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 28 September 2016.

I am a fan of ground cover plants for three simple reasons:

  • they help me control weeds
  • they reduce the amount of work the garden needs to keep it looking good
  • they look great!

Once you get the hang of ground cover plants, your garden and your life will never be the same: both will be better for it!

What are ground cover plants?

Plants that grow quickly and densely, close to the ground, and create a carpet covering the soil. Read all about them in the RHS advice notes but read on here for why I love ground cover plants.

So, plant weed control

A carpet of plants is a barrier that prevents weed seeds reaching the soil, smothers weed seedlings and makes it easier to see and remove weeds that get through. This reduces all the work we otherwise need to do in a war on weeds.

ground cover plants
Ajuga, or bugle, is an all-time favourite in ground cover plants. Sarah Buchanan

I first met the tough little Ajuga when a work colleague offered me a small handful of plants for my new and bare garden. And I carry on the tradition and pass these charming and helpful plants to friends.

Then, put your feet up

By controlling weeds, ground cover plants reduce your workload. And because most are hardy, long lived and require little more attention than ensuring they aren’t covering the plants you do want to see they don’t need much of your time and energy. Our recent blog encouraged you to sit back, rest  and dream a little – an easy garden helps you do just that.

And, enjoy plants that are pretty and easy

Evergreen ground cover creates a year-round carpet – and not just in green. Different sizes and shapes of plant, a range of leaf and flower colours are all on offer.

ground cover
‘Darjeeling Red’ (Persicaria affinis) covers the ground with bright leaves and flowers. Sarah Buchanan

Which plants to choose?

Know your garden and read the labels to find plants that like your dry or damp soil, sun or shade. Many ground cover plants are short but some are bushy and add height to the garden while covering the ground.

My favourite easy-to-grow ground cover plants seem to suit most gardens and most places. Try some in yours?

  • Persicaria affinis ‘Darjeeling Red’; this all-time favourite has bright, evergreen leaves with red edges running along the ground and supporting sturdy red or pink flower spikes. A fantastic plant under shrubs and trees.
  • Geranium macrorrhizum (any variety) is a mound of soft, evergreen, leaves that tinge to red in autumn, with pretty pink or white flowers over the summer. It’s slightly scented. I love it!
  • Ajuga reptans (a cousin of wild bugle) is another all-time favourite. It prefers shade to bright sun where burgundy or pink splashed green leaves are a delight all year. Bold blue summer flower spikes are a bonus for the garden and the bees.
  • Vinca minor or major, and any variety. This old friend is ‘periwinkle’. All varieties have evergreen, trailing leaves, some are creamy green splodged, others a deep forest green. Flower colours are blue, purple or white.
  • Stachys byzantia ‘Silver Carpet’. The soft, grey, felted leaves give the common name of lambs’ ears or lambs’ lugs. Tall summer spikes of pink flowers loved by bees are a bonus. It is perfect for sunny and dry soil.
  • Lamium. This plant grows fast. Different varieties offer a range of leaf and flower colours and sizes. My favourite for many years was ‘Pink Nancy’, delicate, pretty and tough on weeds. My sort of plant!.
  • Epimedium perralderianum, any variety, is a joy of changing leaf colours and delicate flowers. I have struggled with these in some gardens but now they fill a dry and dull area in shade under a tree and I am a confirmed fan.


New plants from old

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 8 July 2016.

Gardeners like to try new plants and new looks, and our gardens often benefit from a bit of a refresh. Grow new plants from old and get the plants you want, and for free. Readers of our blogs know we like a bargain plant – whether from pop up plant stalls or from cuttings from plants in friends’ gardens. So today is all about ‘layering’, an easy way to grow new plants from old.

Some plants do this trick on their own by sending out self rooting stems. The stems of ajuga, strawberries, rubus and other soft plants send out stems that, when they touch the soil, grow roots. Gardeners copy this approach to help other plants do it too.

Self layering plants grow new plants from old
Plants that DIY to create new plants from old by self rooting include ornamental rubus – here taking over a neglected area of my garden. Sarah Buchanan.

Layering is a great way to grow new plants now from old clematis, hop, ivy, periwinkles, honeysuckle and other plants that send up long shoots and stems. And it is a technique to use in autumn and spring to grow new plants from old shrubs such as rhododendrons, viburnums and magnolia (which can be difficult to root from cuttings). Later this month we will blog about cuttings from these (and other less tricky) plant friends, so keep on reading!

Golden hop and ivy - layer to grow new plants from old
Golden hop growing over ivy, both plants suitable for layering to grow new plants from old. Sarah Buchanan

How to grow new plants from old by layering

1. First find a young, flexible shoot or stem, about 40cm long, which does not have any flowers or flower buds and which you can easily bend down to touch the surface of the ground below the old plant.

2. Where the stem meets the ground, either mix a good potful of well rotted garden compost (you followed our blog to create your own?) into the soil, or sink a shallow plastic flower pot (about 20cm across) filled with shop bought potting compost, or a mix of your garden compost and soil, so that the top of the pot is level with the top of the soil.

3. Use a sharp knife to make a shallow cut, about 4cm long, along the stem where it will meet the ground. Make sure you don’t cut right through the stem. Dust the cut with hormone rooting powder and bury the cut area of the stem and another 10cm or so beyond it about 5cm deep in the soil.

4. Keep the stem under the soil by putting a stone on top. Or bend a piece of wire into a U shape, turn it upside down over the stem and push down gently to hold the stem under the soil. Water and keep an eye on your infant plant to ensure the soil is damp through the summer, but otherwise leave it alone.

5. When shoots come up from your cut stem it is time use a sharp knife or secateurs and carefully cut the new plant from the old. Not sure which secateurs for the job? Read our blog of advice! Dig the pot out and find a new home for the plant or dig the new plant up, put it into a pot while you find a home or plant it in its new home. Ideally move your new plant to its new home when it is leafless. Or if it is an evergreen, plant it out in April or September.

The layered stems of some plants take a year or more to grow into a new plant, so be patient. Don’t dig them up too soon. Sometimes it pays dividends to keep your new plant in a pot of good soil to grow bigger before you plant them out in your garden.

Clematis montana for layering to grow new plants from old
Clematis montana is ideal for layering to grow new plants from old. Sarah Buchanan,

Keep layering!

And if this approach is one you like – there are more ways to layer a plant! Try this BBC guide,  then sit down in your rattan chair, with home grown strawberries and cream, and plan your own pop up plant stall for 2017!