Planting in the right spot

Gardening with Nature

Article by Sigrie Kendrick

Garden thug or hero?

By Sigrie Kendrick

Garden thugs can be heroes in the right garden spot

There are no absolutes in gardening. What I consider in some situations to be ‘garden thugs’ are ‘landscape heroes’ under other conditions.

It’s vital that you plant the right plant in the right place when you plan your landscape and create a garden.

I have spent many hours ripping ground cover plants out of clients’ gardens where they have become overly enthusiastic—but under other conditions, the same plants would be ideal.

For instance, I did some work for a client who was interested in shade-tolerant ground covers to plant under existing mature conifers. I suggested they search our plant database and use the 26 search options available to narrow down to plant options that would thrive in the conditions present in their landscape.

In this instance, I suggested a trio of aggressive ground covers which could be successfully grown in the challenging conditions where so much moisture in the soil is taken up by mature tree roots.

I suggested an inter-planting of Ajuga repens, Galium odoratum, and Lamium maculatum.

Ground covers are exactly that: they cover ground quickly and can be successfully used as a living mulch to suppress weeds, while creating beauty.

The three suggestions can be considered ‘thugs’ if irrigated but are ‘heroes’ in less-than-ideal conditions.

Lamium Silver Beacon

Planting the right plant in the right place is a recipe for gardening success.

Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’, commonly known as Bugleweed, features scalloped, tri-colored foliage in shades of cream, rose and green and is covered in brilliant blue blooms in May and June. Ajuga spreads by stolons or plant stems that behave like runners, taking root along the way and forming new plants. Reptans means creeping, and this forms a weed-suppressing mat-like ground cover.

Galium odoratum, also known as Sweet Woodruff features small, fragrant white flowers which appear in spring over dark-green lance-shaped leaves. Both the blooms and the foliage are aromatic and so it is seldom browsed by deer.

Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’, Spotted dead nettle, features silver-gray leaves edged in green. Lamium has an extremely long bloom period with small hooded lavender flowers beginning in late spring and blooming sporadically throughout the growing season.

All of these ground covers are valued for their foliage interest which extends significantly past their bloom period with the light-coloured leaves of the Ajuga and Lamium lightening up the shaded area and contrasting nicely with the Galium leaves.

Sigrie Kendrick is a Master Gardener and Executive-Director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. She can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at

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