Which Ground Cover for Vancouver?

Discussion in 'Groundcovers' started by Barbara Cameron, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. Barbara Cameron

    Barbara Cameron Active Member

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    I have a pint sized lawn (72 sq, ft.) and have tried for 12 years to grow grass. I gave up!! The lawn is almost all moss and looks terrible. I'm trying to get permission from our Strata Council (I live in a townhouse) to replace the ugly lawn with ground cover. I started my research at Prickly Pear (Steveston) last week-end. They showed me a number of ground covers (and recommended some sort of Thyme). But the cost will be prohibitive for me to do the work myself (buy the plants, prepare the soil, plant and nuture the plants until they are all grown in). Also I'm short of time - I work full time.
    So, I was thinking of hiring a professional Landscaper but have no idea who I should hire, cost, etc.
    The lawn is very shady (gets about 1-2 hours of sun in the summer), and has poor drainage. Besides the Thymes, can anybody give me other suggestions on which variety would be best and suggest a reputable Landscaper in Vancouver (or Burnaby)??

    Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Sounds like the wrong spot for thyme, which needs hot sun and coarse soil with good drainage. A friend had a creeping Jenny lawn in a partly shaded area for some years, like the thyme it had to be weeded but unlike thyme makes a vigorous carpet (in the right moist soil and shaded exposure) that should just need to have occasional plucking out of invaders. Thyme, on the other hand, can be a nightmare if the soil is moist and heavy enough to support certain local weeds thousands of tiny plants can pop up among the thyme every year. Forking these out without disturbing the thyme is impossible, you have to push the thyme back into place each time. Time after thyme, indeed.
     
  3. Barbara Cameron

    Barbara Cameron Active Member

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    Ron,
    Thanks for the suggestion. Is the plant called "Creeping Jenny"? Do you know where I can buy it?
    Thanks
     
  4. 1950Greg

    1950Greg Active Member

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    Justn leave the moss and get rid of the grass. The battle with moss is futile you are living on the wet coast and no matter what you plant there will always be moss under your conditions. A lot of people in your position put down paving stones and the moss grows on top of these or some put down indoor outdoor carpet and the moss grows on this. With only a limited amout of sunlight there is not much that will grow other than moss. Moss interspearsed with stones can make a interesting enviroment. I would sujest taking a walk in the northshore and see what kinds of plant are growing there under the same conditions.
     
  5. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    If that is an option, you may combine that with ground cover such as periwinkle (vinca minor) or creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia). They will soon spread and cover up the moss. Especially periwinkle, like moss, likes acid soil and looks green all winter. I am not so sure about creeping jenny in Vancouver. Here in Penticton it partly retracts and turns brownish during winter, but revives quickly in spring. If you have the time, you can buy 3 or 4 4'' pots for a grand total of $10.- to 15.- and let time and plants take care of covering your lawn. That has the advantage, that the transition from lawn to periwinkle will be so gradual, that nobody in the strata council will notice it happening ;)
    While IMOEO the paving stones would be more of a change than the transition to ground cover, I cannot imagine either to be a problem concerning the strata and I have lived in 3 different ones.

    BTW, both periwinkle and creeping jenny prefer at least some shade, but will readily spread into sunny areas, once established. So you might want to keep that in mind when planting your starters.
     
  6. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    This is exactly why I got this groundcover forum started. A wonderful way to solve this "ground-covering" problem! I actually am using a combo of MOSS and groundcovers in the front of my condo townhouse, and besides adding the usual small cute conifers, because I have some sunlight later in the day I have added for spring colour some deciduous shrubs which most people around the West Coast don't seem to use [weigela and white bridal wreath spirea plus various smaller forsythias]. I will await the deer depredations, if any. [ I have a cost-free organic deer spray I use which has been mentioned before in these pages which always causes hoots of derision, but works if not rained off right away. ] I have yet to SEE a sample of creeping jenny, I'd love to know what it looks like -- any picures out there? [I can't share pictures yet as my camera needs to be replaced.] I must have seen it in nurseries but I can't remember doing so. What about the Sweet Woodruff shade gardeners like? It is apparently not all that low, maybe up to 10" high, not sure... Your shady mossy place could be done up like a small Japanese garden, very easily, with moss ENCOURAGED and some miniature conifers, some attractive rocks or stones. I love the pale yellowish-green Ogon as well which is sold in all the good gardening centres [you'll find it on the Web, illustrated, it's a tiny soft sedum -- looks like a slightly-larger leaved Baby's Tears [Baby's Tears would work!] but is lush and yellow-green, tiny rounded leaves -- you could plant some very dark tiny conifers in it for contrast... or a bordering hedge, in miniature, of a small boxwood or whatever... Your public library will have oodles of books on shade gardening, small-space gardening, and may I recommend George Schenk's books on moss gardening and shade gardening [check library or Amazon.ca] -- they may be a bit scholarly and quirky, though, for a beginner, but there are lots of books on the shade garden topic. A groundcover which is very thick and low and almost thyme-like is white star creeper, out there in all of the nurseries right now. It doesn't seem to mind shade, but perhaps someone else would comment on that. It takes over other groundcovers, when sun is available. It also quiets down in winter a bit. We actually COLLECT MOSSES [especially the tiny ones] and transplant them, and I have mosses around the base of a cherry tree around and nestled among the huge knotted roots showing above ground, and then outside of that I am developing an informal circle of groundcovers I am experimenting with [Corsican mint -- should be ok in shade, very very "green" all winter, nice and flat -- Corsican sandwort, Elfin Thyme [like moss in winter, more noticeable in summer, fine in shade -- a tiny tiny thyle], Woolly Thyme [greyish in winter, dark grey-green in summer], and some of the woodier groundcovers like Kinnickkinnick [almost like a miniature low-growing Euonymous shrub, or miniature Cotoneaster -- also an idea -- with slightly larger leaves], all of these at nurseries...
     
  7. Barbara Cameron

    Barbara Cameron Active Member

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    1950Greg,
    I doubt that OUR Strata Council would agree to the paving stones and moss. They are particularly fussy this year (threatened to remove many of our treasured plants that we have grown over the past 12 years, etc., etc.)

    Olafhenny,
    Creeping Jenny has been suggested by Ron too so I'll look into that. I'll also look into the Periwinkle idea. As for the Strata Council not noticing - that would have been true in past years but not now. I was thinking of just leaving the whole thing until next year when we may have a different council.
    The idea of having a combo of Creeping Jenny, paving stones and Periwinkle really sounds appealing to me rather than trying to plant just one kind of ground cover and force it to fill the area (as small as it is).
    I'm visiting our local garden centre today and will take both ideas with me.
    Thanks to you all.
     
  8. Barbara Cameron

    Barbara Cameron Active Member

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    janetdoyle,
    Thanks for the suggestions. I went to our local garden shop this afternoon and they have a whole section of ground covers for shady places. I'm now planning a combo of focus plant groups with paving stones, taller plants and ground covers. I have a beautiful Hakol that would look great with a Creeping Jenny (yellowish green curly foilage with yellow flowers in summer).
    Another focus plant group with a very sturdy shrub trimmed in a low and wide Japanese style with ??? Lots of plans. My big problem is that our Strata Council this year is really fussy and my plans are a complete departure from the rest of the front yards and I think they are looking for more uniformity not less..... Who knows. They are pushing brick paving of the area in question - UGH!!!

    Right now I'm looking for some photos of small gardens with paving stones, ground covers and a bit taller plants (work full-time can't get to the library easily) on-line. Any suggestions?
     
  9. Olafhenny

    Olafhenny Active Member 10 Years

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    Barbara, I am not sure that paving stones with either periwinkle or creeping jenny are a good mix. Both of these will tend to cover the paving stones over in short order. So the paving stones would probably turn out to be a wasted expense. If you want something to walk on occasionally, you will have no problem stepping right on the proposed ground covers. For accentuating I love goat's beard, which is about 3' tall in the first year. up to 5' later, but quite delicate in appearance. They are still very pretty, after the bloom is over. Instead of white, the spent blossoms then turn brown and still form quite an attractive contrast to the green foliage.

    See: http://www.amazon.com/Kneiffii-Goats-Beard-Plant-Aruncus/dp/B000PKT5O2

    And for colour contrast try wandering jew. There are several quite varied species. I am talking about tradescantia pallida 'purpurea'. You can see the picture at: http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=C137.
    They are annuals here (and in Vancouver), but I just cut some of the branches off after the first light frost and stick them in water indoors and a few weeks later they will all have rooted. You can then plant them into a pot any time thereafter and move them back outside in spring. Meanwhile in a wide bowl with a mix of evergreens they make a beautiful arrangement, which you can make last all winter.
     
  10. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    There are ways to fool the eye, Barbara, that things are more finished than they are. It sounds as though you have a start with your focus plants. Surely that strata council can let you develop a "Japanese" style garden! I see lots of that in Vancouver, for heaven's sake. What do they want, just a patch of grass? That is not what I see in Vancouver! Draw a plan [even if you don't follow it exactly] and submit it to them, and just be firm. [[ I had to be firm in my complex about not cutting down some perfectly fine cherry trees in each front yard, especially mine. I told them to spray them for caterpillars in June, which was the issue, and use tanglefoot on a trunk-wrapping in October as the Van Dusen does for many of their trees.]] You could put some stepping stones around in a square, oblong, oval [oval might be interesting] if you want to look formal, or wandering style, and plant your groundcovers on either side. I would use the lower-growing types rather than any taller ones. It takes a while for groundcovers to mesh into one mat, quite a while, actually... so don't expect instant gratification nor should they. Incredibly neat care of that patch and the strategic plantings should satisfy them. You could put an elegant planter out there in the right spot with something bright and colourful, or until bloom season some trailing ivy or greenery, or even another, interestingly-shaped evergreen in it. Stone or stone-style planters look nice in front yards. I still have to see some creeping jenny, I might like to use it. I think it used to be consiered a weed in my old home city of Halifax, unless they were talking about something else, but then Halifax didn't use groundcovers much although they may be doing so now. Any groundcover that grows over 10" high might look messy. Just try a patch of Ogon [sedum makinoi 'Ogon', see http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?Code=B266], experimentally, when you have time, I think you'll enjoy it. It does fine in shade. Let us know how it goes, Barbara.
     
  11. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    I recommend visiting Nitobe Garden at UBC to see how lovely the moss looks.

    Periwinkle and creeping jenny are too tangly for my taste. And goatsbeard can get out of hand, and it "disappears" over winter. So can blue star creeper. We have creeping jenny and ajuga at the edge of a path; they look good at their peak but are nothing special over winter. The blue star creeper has bounded into the veggie patch...
     
  12. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    The low flat thymes look like moss in winter, and make a nice flat carpet in spring/summer/fall, but the Corsican Mint remained a bright green flat carpet in my Saanich-Victoria garden patch, although none of them join up very quickly from the different little plantings made. I find periwinkle in my garden here was growing "up" instead of "around", most unusual -- it was the groundcover of choice in Halifax and formed a tight thick 6" high cushion, but here it seems to rise up and not spread, I don't know why. Blue Star Creeper looks great, though, like a miniature Baby's Breath, but does take over [after all, that's what one often wants] and would cover ground really quickly and it has a slightly mounded fluffy look with the very tiny pale blue flowers appearing in summer, although very low. I agree, it disappears into a flat lost-looking thing in winter. I don't think this person wants "moss" as it is being considered a "fault" by the strata council's unimaginative garden monitors! The winter look is important in a strata, and I am wondering how creeping jenny survives the winter. I just don't know it, and I will look in the nurseries. There are some VERY low-growing conifers around, I purchased 3 last year which look like miniature fir or hemlock except they are totally prostrate and spreading with long curving barnches, and are getting new growth in the form of tiny needles... although more expensive, a thickly-planted carpet of those would certainly retain character during the winter -- and use something contrasting like the Sedum makinoi "Ogon" underneath, a completely different colour of green [low shrubbery is grey-silver-green, Ogon is yellow-green], to show through the branches...
     
  13. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  14. cindys

    cindys Active Member

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    Hi Barbara - I also live in Vancouver and have almost the exact same conditions you describe. Although both Creeping Jenny and Periwinkle would likely work, I would not really recommend either. In some jurisdictions, Periwinkle (Vinca) is considered invasive. Neither of these plants can be walked on.

    What I am trying now is Dutch White Clover. Elsewhere on this forum someone has posted pictures of a test lawn of Dutch White Clover planted in Burnaby http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=25467&highlight=dutch+white+clover. It looks terrific. It is green like a lawn. It has little white flowers that will attract bees (a good thing). It can be mown periodically or left alone. It can be walked on. Apparently, it is good in sun or shade and is not picky about soil type. Locally, you can get seeds from West Coast Seeds http://www.westcoastseeds.com/

    I think your Strata Council would be happier with something that looks lawn-like.
     
  15. TownMouse

    TownMouse Member

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    Consider carefully re-reading the rules of your Strata Council (in the USA, often called HOAs - Homeowner Associations). I have found that the _actual_ terms/rules/limitations often are not known to, or followed by, the enforcing committee. Thinking long term, anything in conflict with the written rules could seriously affect future resale of your property (they could require correction prior to close of escrow -- could mean greatly increased cost$ to get the re-landscaping finished). Maybe if the Strata were to view the problem you describe, they would realize that their landscaping restrictions seem not to suit the site.

    BUT, if you are determined to sidestep the CC&Rs (Covenants, Rules & Restrictions) regarding care of your 72 sq.ft., try a few hardscape elements with potted plants recessed into holes. For instance, if you have a 2-gallon nursery container, permanently recess/bury one of equal size, then rotate into them healthy containers of the plants you love. There are plastic pavers (beige; 18"x18") which look okay and can be repositioned after winter heave, or as tastes change (path, patio, border, base for urn, birdbath, etc.) If the council fusses, you can remove/store them easily.
     
  16. paxi

    paxi Active Member

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    can anyone else please comment regarding the invasiveness of creeping jenny? I love the look of the combination with japanese maples in containers and have found it very easy for this beginner gardener to grow. I just planted in ground for the first time in a long "bed" of maples bordered on one end by grass and a paver retaining wall on the other. After googling I am worried that I may have created a monster. Zone 5b. Please advise!


    In particular reading links like this makes me want to dig it up immediately ( I just planted it on saturday)

    http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/weed/creepjen.htm


    Sorry, I re-read that link above and I guess "creeping jenny" and refer to more than one thing. He seems (?) to be referring to convolvulus arvensis (bindweed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convolvulus_arvensis ) but when I think of creeping jenny, i think of lysimachia nummularia or aurea which also seem to have invasive tendencies. less so with the aurea, but how much less so?
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2008
  17. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    Lysimachia nummularia aurea is easy enough to control. It does root readily along the stem, so the new plants/plantlets need digging out. I don't know how it is at the edge of a lawn. Might be pretty making its way among the grass...
     
  18. paxi

    paxi Active Member

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    thanks thats reassuring. My (hopeful) conclusion is that while it can spread quickly, because it can be pullled up easily, a little bit of maintenance can go a long way?
     

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