Shade gardens: ground covers
Most household yards have shady corners where grass doesn't prosper, or bare earth under shrubs or trees that seems to cry out for some color or vegetation. Sometimes a planting of annuals or labor-intensive perennials would be too much in such places, but a low-maintenance groundcover would fit the bill. There are many outstanding, shade-loving groundcovers that thrive in our Rocky Mountain gardens such as:
Periwinkle, which comes in green or variegated leaf forms. The flowers can be pink and white as well as the bright violet-blue that gave this plant its name. Periwinkle has oval, leathery leaves an inch or so long that are beautiful all winter.
Skullcap, or deadnettle, is not quite as evergreen or durable. But a handful of wonderful varieties with outstanding variegated foliage are commonly sold through the summer months. These plants glitter for weeks on end with fascinating pink or white blossoms.
Barren strawberry has glossy green foliage, rather like a glorified, brassy-green strawberry leaf. The flowers are like sprays of buttercups which bloom in early spring. This plant forms a wonderful compact mat, fully evergreen if not exposed to too much sun and wind.
Bugleweed makes a fast spreading mat of oblong leaves with rather formal spires of pink, lavender or white flowers depending on the variety. The foliage is also variable, from showy, tricolor leaves to deep purple to simply green. It does best with a few hours of direct, early morning or late afternoon sun.
Sweet woodruff is not evergreen. But the deep green whorls of leaves are decorative for half the year. The dazzling white foamy appearance of starry blooms last from April well into June, lighting up dark corners like a lamp.
For more information, see the following Colorado State Extension fact sheet(s).
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Updated Friday, April 19, 2013