Tag Archives: groundcover plants

Tikorangi Notes: Friday June 1, 2012

A true blue verbascum - Blue Lagoon (Photo: Thompson and Morgan)

A true blue verbascum – Blue Lagoon (Photo: Thompson and Morgan)

Latest posts: June 1, 2012
1) Astoundingly, a blue as blue verbascum. Currently only available in the UK, as far as I know, but we seriously covet it for our garden. Abbie’s column.
2) The last nerine for the season, N. bowdenii, standing up to late autumn with brazen pinkness.
3) Grow it yourself – a bay tree. It is easy.
4) And, nothing to do with gardening, but a slew of new reviews on http://runningfurs.com – children’s books this time (mostly picture books) with three really good ones amongst them.

After last week’s column about reviewing our mixed borders, I have been having such fun reworking some of the borders. But I think my concept (and practice) of unifying the underplantings is on a somewhat different page to that of the author, Anne Wareham, who motivated me in this direction. True, in one border, I drifted the blue corydalis, yellow polyanthus and blue lobelia, but also retained the Rodgersia aesculifolia and Mark’s showy arisaemea hybrids. I cast out the dreadful mondo grass which seems to inveigling its way in everywhere (compost heaps are so useful) and figured that the interesting Manfreda maculosa would be better being interesting somewhere else. Same with the burgundy eucomis and a few other plants. But I was always bound to fall off the simplifying wagon. It being the coldest border we have in the upper gardens, I simply could not resist trying some meconopsis (blue Himalayan poppies) to see if they would like the spot. Ditto, some Higo iris, because we are looking for the right conditions for these.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We will see how my border looks in the spring and then for the next two or three years. There is little dross left but I realise it is just not in my nature (nor, indeed, in Mark’s) to switch to simple, unified plantings. We just have to work harder at getting the combinations better and establishing different looks so they don’t all start to meld and look the same.

On the case with Grandma’s violets (subtitled: it is hard to find the perfect groundcover).


I see it was only a little over two years ago that I gave the death sentence to Rubus pentalobus (commonly called the orangeberry plant because few of us can recall its proper name) and chose Grandma’s violets as a ground cover instead. In fact they are more likely to Mark’s great grandma’s violets because they date back to the 1880s house site and have gently survived paddock conditions there ever since. Once divided and planted into the garden, they have taken off with alarming vigour. Sweetly scented and charming though they are in flower, they were starting to overwhelm everything in their path.

Last year we tried thinning the patch and it was a surprisingly difficult task because the violets had formed an impenetrable mat. I figured this year it would be easier to dig the entire patch and replant small divisions. Digging is only difficult when the ground is heavily compacted or with a blunt spade. Using a sharp spade, I cut the violets into squares as one does with turf. Each square was easy enough to lift.

I raked over the bare soil to level it. Some of the clumps I had dug fell apart quite readily, giving me small divisions to replant immediately. Others, I pulled apart as required, spacing at around 15cm intervals.

There was a large surplus of violets. Not every plant is precious. This barrowload (one of several) is destined for the compost heap.

A final topdressing of compost feeds the soil, reduces water loss from the poor stressed plants and makes the whole area look more attractive. There is an open verdict here as to whether I want to persist with a groundcover that looks as if it will need drastic digging and dividing every year. I will make the call next spring.