Ground covers are an eye-catching and easy-to-maintain alternative to mowing grass around trees, bushes or rocks. Even in areas where soil is poor or the lawn is sparse because of light or soil compaction, gardeners can install ground covers with very little soil amendment or followup. Purple flowering ground cover plants add a pleasing contrast against rocks in the garden, patches of green grass, groups of evergreen or deciduous shrubs, or creeping along the front steps.
Plant perennial creeping phlox against the foundation of a home or along a stone border and watch it creep forward, nestling in the gaps between rocks or forming a thick, green mat topped by masses of small, four-petaled, purple flowers. Its mounding habit is a welcome sight in the spring and needs no pruning to look neat and trim. Soil should be cultivated to a depth of 4 inches and plant spaced 9 to 12 inches apart, as they will quickly fill in. The only drawback to creeping phlox is its tendency to creep out of its bed and into the lawn. Trimming curbs that problem.
Vinca and Myrtle
Border trees and shrubs with vinca and myrtle. These perennial vines both spread and creep rapidly, and their stems establish new roots and clumps wherever they lie. Myrtle shows off with spring blooms of deep purple or lavender against 1-inch, glossy, green leaves. It will grow to a height of 6 to 8 inches but is not a climber. Vinca comes into bloom slightly later and will climb and twine if allowed. The variegated green and white leaves of vinca tend to dominate its lavender blooms, but they are pretty just the same. It's easy to propagate both vinca and myrtle by rooting cuttings in plain water.
Clover is a slightly taller, perennial ground cover, reaching 6 inches, and a major attractor for bees and butterflies. Its deep purplish-red, 1-inch blossoms are edible for humans as well. It thrives in culverts and areas where soil is poor and lawns are patchy, spreading and blooming all summer. Purple clover is best grown in full sun, but it can die back in periods of drought. If allowed to go to seed, it will march through your lawn, covering bare spots and adding splashes of summer color.
Ipomoea purpurea is commonly called morning glory for its trumpet-shaped blossoms that pop each morning in summer. This extremely fast-growing annual vine is easily grown from seed scattered on moist soil in full sun. Depending on the variety, flowers are purple, pink, white or blue. Long stems bearing masses of 2-inch, heart-shaped leaves creep and twine over everything in their path. Morning glory is notorious for growing in the poorest soil conditions and is a favorite for planting around mailboxes, railings and steps. Its only drawback is a tendency to tangle itself in other garden plantings. Establishing morning glory in its own 4-square foot area will allow plenty of time to trim and train a plant before it gets out of control.
- Photo Credit blue phlox image by Liga Lauzuma from Fotolia.com
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