El Dorado News-Times
Picking the right ground-cover and pruning hellebores
FILLING A GAP
Q: The attached photo depicts the north strip of ground where my covered patio prevents not one trickle of sunlight to land — ever. Tried so-called “shade” grasses with zero success.
I liked the photo of moss blended with artsy flat stones in your recent column. If the moss would prevail most, if not yearround, as suggested, this looks like a good pick. Would the moss invade the adjoining healthy grass to a bad extent? Or would a deep border barrier provide adequate separation? Thanks for the guidance and inspiration your columns have given this admitted amateur dirt-digger.
A: What is the drainage like in that strip? I see a little moss on the higher edge, but it appears to be more algae or bare soil next to the patio. What about building a small bed of mulch? Lay down some landscape fabric, have an edged border and fill with some type of mulch. You could put a few pots on top of that or just have a finished border. Moss would work unless the area gets waterlogged at times. Moss is a wonderful groundcover in the right spot, but it won’t take standing water very well.
WHEN TO CUT BACK HELLEBORES
Q: I have a beautiful planting of hellebores, but every year I struggle with when to cut back the dead foliage. I know you recommend refraining from cutting back until after danger of frost has passed. But by the time that danger has passed, the hellebores will almost be done blooming. When is it best to cut back the foliage on hellebores?
A: In a normal year, I clean up damaged foliage in late fall to early winter on hellebores. Hellebores typically begin to put on new foliage in late fall to early winter and bloom from early winter to early spring. This year’s December freeze damaged a lot of the early blooms and much of the foliage. The plants are recovering but the dead leaves do detract from the blooms. If you can get in there and selectively thin out old leaves now, it will make the plants look more attractive. Even though hellebores are usually evergreen, they don’t do much growing during the summer.
WEEDING OUT THE WRONG GROUND-COVERS
Q: We’ve been fighting an ugly “weed garden” out back that degrades our view of the river. We finally chopped it down and burned off the surface, followed by commercial application of a “soil sterilant,” Esplanade EZ + Remedy, in early September. This left bare earth on a 200-by-75-foot area with a slight slope. The chemical guy said we could plant groundcover this spring (do you agree?), so our question is which one? It needs to be: Aggressive to compete with returning weeds and tolerant of full day, full sun in the summer (with hose/sprinkler-pulling during worst droughts).
We want it to be: Fast spreading for quick establishment and weed suppression, unappetizing to deer.
We don’t care much about cosmetics, as long as it’s green, as it’ll be seen only at a distance. Cheap and homely is fine, as long as it satisfies most of the above. First priority is weed suppression, second is erosion control. What would you recommend? Thank you.
A: Wow, you don’t want much! LOL. Normally they say to wait six months after that herbicide before replanting, so spring should be safe. That is a large area you need to cover, and the longer it stays exposed, the more weeds will begin to encroach. There are a few things you could consider. There are some local companies who could hydroseed the area with a grass such as weeping love grass or a mix of native grasses. Hydroseeding allows the seeds to adhere to a slope and prevent it from eroding while the seed germinates. That would get the job done all at once. If you wanted to plant individual plants of groundcover, it would take a lot of plants to get thorough coverage.
I would suggest doing it in installments, covering the additional areas with landscape fabric and mulch until the groundcover establishes. Carolina jessamine is normally grown as a vine but can be used as a ground-cover, and it does spread quickly. Virginia creeper is another native vine that spreads quickly, but it can be aggressive.
Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas’ best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email email@example.com.