Not Your Typical Groundcovers

When meeting with prospective clients, I often hear this:

“I can’t stand pachysandra or English ivy”.

Fair enough. So what are your groundcover alternatives?

Let’s think “outside the box”. Many different plants can serve this purpose very well on your property. Below is a list of groundcovers that merit our attention and are worthy for several reasons. A few notes:

If you have areas where grass will not grow, slopes or shady areas, groundcovers are the answer.

Many groundcovers are deer resistant. All of them flower. Some are even fragrant. Some make great cut flowers. Flower arrangers will appreciate the different foliage textures whether they are evergreen or deciduous.

In the beginning, mulch 2 inches deep to help keep weeds down and moisture in until established. Weeding will still need to be done. Gardens are not maintenance free. Aesthetically speaking, plants are better to look at than mulch.

Pay close attention to growth and care requirements for your groundcover, and you will be rewarded with healthy and happy plants for years to come.

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’. Bugleweed. 3” x 6”. Deep purple foliage. Blue flower spikes in late spring. Growth habit is spreading. Deer resistant. Sun / part shade. Semi-evergreen.

Continue reading

Downy Mildew on Impatiens

Are you scratching your head wondering what happened to your impatiens plants last year? They all developed something called Downey Mildew (plasmopara obducens). Affected plants seemed healthy one week and were gone the next.

Downey Mildew is a very aggressive disease. In the early phase, yellowing and curling of the leaves is present. Turn them over and you will see white powdery spores on the undersides. The late stage is complete defoliation. This happens within a matter of weeks.

This disease was first found in the UK in 2003, then California in 2004 and in Delaware in 2012. Downy Mildew quickly infects plants when dry periods are followed by wet conditions. It is rampant along the east and west coasts of the US. It can be spread by water splash over a short distance and wind over longer distances.

The problem still has not been resolved, so do not plant impatiens walleriana until then. The spores can overwinter where infected plants have been.

Growers are frantically trying to find a solution to this problem. Until then, you have other choices for your shady garden areas.

New Guinea impatiens are not affected. Coleus, caladiums, all types of begonias, torenia and browallias as well. These shade lovers can be purchased in most garden centers.

You might be disappointed at not being able to grow your beloved impatiens, but you could be surprised at how creative you can be in combining the other shade-loving annuals listed above.

I will post a notice on my web site when it is safe to plant impatiens walleriana again. In the meantime, Happy Spring!

Plants deer (probably) won’t eat.

Our changing climate, high heat and drought conditions are creating a noticeable increase in deer “browsing”.

Over the years, I have seen many plants that were previously untouched by deer, move to the “edible” list. So what can we plant that they won’t eat? The following list has been compiled by Mark Bridgen, Professor of Horticulture at Cornell University and Director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, N.Y. He has researched this topic for more than 25 years.

I would recommend for future plantings … start with this list.


Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon)
Asparagus springerii (asparagus fern)
Continue reading