Get Off The Grass - Groundcovers For Problem PlacesWritten by Jean Fritz
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The original plant used for “lawns” was creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum). This creeping beauty is ideal for high-traffic areas, responding to onslaught of pedestrian footfalls with heavenly fragrance. Many people grow creeping thyme as a filler in flagstone or brick walkways, but there’s no reason to limit it to small spaces. Another herb that is popular as a groundcover and adapts to either sun or shade is sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata). The plant has a fernlike appearance, and leaves smell like new-mown grass or hay. In spring, it boasts dainty white flowers that are used to flavor German May wine.
Finally, if you believe you are a brown-thumbed gardener and nothing will work for you, take heart. There are two groundcovers that grow in sun, shade, sand, clay, and are virtually indestructible. These are golden moneywort (Lysmachia mummularia aurea) and bishop’s weed (Aegopodium variegata). Golden moneywort is a golden-leaved, low-growing creeper. It starts to color up in early spring, once temperatures reach mid-60s, and retains its golden hue until hard frost hits. Like most lysmachias, it is very invasive, and can choke out unwanted weeds within two to three seasons. Bishop’s weed stands about 12” tall, and offers succulent, palmlike leaves in either deep green or variegated hues. Its flowers resemble those of Queen Anne’s lace. And from personal experience, I can attest that it comes back stronger after burning, tilling, chopping and applications of glyphosphate herbicide. Perhaps you can kill this stuff with kindness, but nothing else works.
Using groundcovers may take you out of “best lawn” competition with neighbors, but they will be green with envy when your time is spent grilling and lounging rather than mowing, watering and fertilizing.
The author is a farmer and freelance writer. You can take a virtual tour of her farm at http://clik.to/kittyvista
How to Transplant IrisesWritten by LeAnn R. Ralph
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3. Dig holes with a trowel about four inches deep and eight to ten inches apart. Put iris roots into holes and cover with soil.
4. Water transplanted irises thoroughly. For remainder of season, water irises a couple of times each week, especially when rain is in short supply.
Observations about irises:
1. From what I have seen of irises growing in my flower beds, they are tough plants that are quite drought resistant. Like any plant, they will do better when they receive plenty of water, but during years when it has been dry, they have still survived extremely well. And of course, irises that I dug up from old homesteads didn't have any help at all during drought years, and *they* made it just fine.
2. The irises in my yard seem to do equally well in full sun or in partial shade.
3. Trimming iris leaves after plants are done blooming to give more room and more light to other plants nearby doesn't seem to bother irises. For past couple of years, I have trimmed irises growing next to my rose bush, and following year, irises have come back as strong as ever.
LeAnn R. Ralph is author of farm books "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm" (trade paperback 2003); "Give Me a Home Where Dairy Cows Roam" (trade paperback 2004); "Preserve Your Family History (A Step-by-Step Guide for Interviewing Family Members and Writing Oral Histories" (e-book 2004). You are invited to sign up for free monthly newsletter, Rural Route 2 News -- http://ruralroute2.com
LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the farm books "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm" and "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam" (trade paperback 2004); http://ruralroute2.com