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OPT FOR A COVER VERSION: There's plenty to like about these easy plants that keep weeds at bay

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Space invaders. No, not Martians or Klingons – they are green invaders here on planet Earth. Better known as ground cover plants, they develop beautiful living mats.

Often described as “labour-saving,” ground covers suppress weeds and are attractive year-round. Some have seasonal flowers, some have changing foliage, and most take care of themselves. But like bonfires and politicians, some are horrible when they’re out of control.

To furnish corners or barren banks, low-maintenance ground covers are the best choice. Grass is the most obvious, but requires regular trimming. Leafy plant rugs are prettier and less demanding.

Even so, ground cover is never completely out of work. Plants age or die, creating areas of weakness. Weeds can infest living carpets. Plants also lack manners, with pushy spreaders intimidating more delicate treasures.

Minimize these issues by selecting teams from well-behaved factories. Get the mix right and your ground cover might look prettier than the fanciest mixed borders.

For purely functional coverage, line the ground with a single variety – usually just for foliage. The simplest example is a lawn – but not necessarily grass. Wild creeping thymes, chamomile and grass lily or ophiopogon are also upholsterers.

CARPET OF THE WOODS

On flat ground, you can grow anything. But on embankments or steep slopes, choose less demanding ground covers.

If the shore is shady, it is a gift to create a wooded ground. Primroses, sweet violets and wood anemones would all make for a lovely springtime display. For large areas, wild daffodils, bluebells, wild garlic – Allium ursinum and yellow archangel – Lamium galeobdolon create beautiful woody carpets. They are invasive, but beautiful in the spring and great for pollinators.

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For dark corners, try creeping ferns. Polypodium vulgare spreads gently in dry shade. In moist shade, the ostrich feather fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is a spreader.

Welsh poppies make beautiful In the pink: Geranium macrorrhizum blooms easily take up space in most soil companions, with lemon-yellow blooms among feathery ferns. For sunny banks, the choice is wider. Large-leaved bergenias develop long-lasting carpets of changing colors and showy pink flowers.

When planting a new area, first make sure all perennial weeds are destroyed. Then, watch and remove any foreign plants as soon as they appear. Be especially vigilant for creeping bindweed, nettles or thistles.

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Once cured, maintenance of your cover will be minimal. But remove unwanted plants unless they blend in well with the rest.

CHOOSE WITH CARE

Ground cover plants vary in how they grow. In small spaces, fast growers could be difficult to control. So choose those that spread more slowly and are not deeply rooted. Even then, be prepared to scale back or eliminate aggressive spreaders, especially if they begin to smother weaker neighbors.

In large areas, you can scale. If you prefer a mix, use plants tough enough to withstand pushy neighbors. If you select just one variety, it can be as insistent as you want. But keep it within its limits.

For blooms and changing seasons Cranesbill is suitable for medium to large areas.

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