Area rugs for the garden

I have spent the last few months searching for the perfect area rug for my TV room. Like most things in my house and garden, it has to be colorful, cozy and pet friendly.

That got me thinking about what’s under my feet and the area rugs in my garden.

I’m not one for the perfectly manicured lawn. It’s much too labor intensive, all that watering, mowing and obsessing over dandelions. Plus, that sweet little pup of mine loves to dig. So I have several areas of ground cover or area rugs throughout my yard and garden.

In my front lamppost bed, which gets a mix of sun and shade, I have several varieties of sedum. They are happy there and spread like crazy. With all the different types, I have an interesting grouping of colors and textures that continue to grow and spread each year. I confess there is little height with these plants, but, so far (I’m keeping my fingers crossed), the hungry deer have walked past them and gone straight for the caladiums.

I have another rug of purple mazus, or creeping mazus, that has begun to spread and fill its area quite nicely. In the late spring to early summer, it has a tiny blueish-purple bloom that adds a soft contrast to the green leaves. Mazus like filtered sun and well-drained soil. Mine is somewhat sheltered and thriving near a stone wall and oak tree.

The bright green leaves of creeping jenny are easily recognized. I see them cascading down the sides of window boxes, planters and also as a border in garden beds. Creeping jenny has an extensive root system and will spread quickly when planted in the ground. I hope mine will continue to creep down the path beside my house, filling in among the rocks and stepping stones.

Other evergreen ground covers to mention include brass buttons, with small fern-like leaves that create mats of dark green, and Irish moss, which is not really moss at all but forms a soft velvety cushion of carpet. Mondo grass makes a great border or filler for either full or partial sun areas, and, of course, there’s lamb’s ear with its soft and fuzzy silver leaves.

My patch of lamb’s ear began with a small start from my aunt’s garden. She has since died, but her garden lives on in mine. The lamb’s ear loves sun but will survive in partial shade. It will also produce spiky pink, purple and white blooms. I trim these back and enjoy the texture of the leaves. It really does look and feel like carpet, but I would avoid walking on it.

Ajuga works for shaded areas. The dark green to reddish-purple leaves will fill in quickly and provide visual interest with pretty blooms in early spring. Ajuga grows close to the ground. If you want a little height, try sweet woodruff. Plant this in the deep shade. It will grow to be 6 to 10 inches tall with a small white flower and needs consistent watering.

I have a little bank off of my lower deck that gets full afternoon and evening sun. I’ve tried many different plants there over the years but have found success with creeping thyme. Finally, a plant that is thriving in my sunny clay soil. It’s tough. The dog runs through it daily, and yet it continues to spread.

Although this plant dies in the late winter, it comes back quickly with the first signs of spring. This is a plant I often see between stepping stones and in rock gardens. It has a pretty purple bloom, but be aware that bees are attracted to this blossom.

As I continue my search for the perfect indoor rug, I encourage you to think about your outdoor garden rugs. Take a walk through your local nursery. There are several choices of ground covers. Some will tolerate high-traffic areas, others will be better suited off the beaten path. Play with the placement of these plants, tuck them in rocky areas, small cubby holes in your garden. Most will grow just about anywhere.

Jane Powell is a long-time West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener through the Kanawha County chapter and has a garden with sunny spots and shady beds where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs. She is also the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits. Reach Jane at