Groundcovers turn a bare patch into a showpiece.
NATIVE VIOLET ( Viola banksii, formerly Viola hederacea) Native violet is your go-to plant for that shady, often damp area down the side of the house. It’s ideal to soften around a stepping-stone path, adding pretty mauve and white flowers for most of the year to the dense cover of round leaves. It spreads easily, so don’t use where it will compete with other plants. In shade it can reach 10cm tall, but is flatter in sunnier and drier spots. It grows in most climates. STAR JASMINE ( Trachelospermum jasminoides) The climber we love for its mass of perfumed white flowers from late spring to early summer makes an equally hardy groundcover. Use it in sun or shade to cover large areas under tall trees or across sloping banks. It forms a dense cover about 30cm high, but if you want something lower, denser and tighter, look for Asiatic star jasmine ( Trachelospermum asiaticum), especially the cultivar ‘Flat Mat’. Shear it all over after flowering finishes. BELLFLOWER ( Campanula poscharskyana) Profuse, star-shaped flowers in lavender-blue from mid-spring to summer make this dense groundcover as pretty as it is practical. The soft, heart-shaped leaves reach no more than 15cm high but can spread indefinitely. It sometimes self-seeds in the cracks of paths or steps, so is able to tolerate occasional dryness. It’s also lovely spilling over rocks, or filling in between perennials and shrubs. It grows in cool and warm climates where it’s protected from hot sun. BLUE BUGLE ( Ajuga reptans) This shade-loving beauty forms flat rosettes of shiny leaves from which tall spikes of blue flowers rise in spring and summer. The leaves are usually glossy deep green, but ‘Atropurpurea’ has purplish tones; ‘Burgundy Glow’ features mottled cream, pale green and crimson leaves; and ‘Catlin’s Giant’ has larger, red-tinted foliage. Grow Ajuga in warm or cool climates (where it takes more sun) but not the tropics. It’s useful under deciduous trees or to bind soil. Once established, it forms a dense mat. CREEPING BOOBIALLA ( Myoporum parvifolium) For hot, dry spots, this native trailing plant is a good choice because it’s tough and easy-care. The foliage can be green or bronze-purple, and there’s also a fine-leafed form. In spring, it’s sprinkled with small, white or pale pink starry flowers. The stems form roots as they grow, so it’s excellent for binding steep banks, and looks lovely as fill between native shrubs or spilling over a wall. It grows in cool, warm and subtropical climates and needs a lot of sun. #