Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Groundcovers for the Sonoran Desert

Our next series takes us into the extremely fun world of groundcovers. What are groundcover plants?  Simple.  It can be anything that covers the ground for either an aesthetic purpose or planted to prevent erosion or drought.   In the desert, groundcover plants can mean many different things.  You can use cactus as groundcover or smaller agaves.  Most think of groundcovers as fuzzy furry greeny leafy plants, but it doesn't always have to be.  I have worked with 4 primary types of groundcovers....the desert plants like cacti or agave, the vine, the traditional, and the tropical groundcovers.  There is so much to choose from that it can be overwhelming.  So I'd like to show some pics to help demonstrate this next series of plants that I am currently using or experimenting with at El Presidio.  Let's begin with the desert groundcover theme......
Here is barrel cactus used in a repeating form punctuated with smaller agaves under a mesquite
 Another prickly choice for groundcover are the hairy style cactus that you see below from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  I'll be taking you there in several weeks.  While not traditional in the sense of a groundcover, like from my home back in Wisconsin, it is a groundcover for the desert. Agaves are also commonly used.

An example of a vine groundcover is something like Algerian Ivy or Confederate Jasmine.  At El Presidio, the Confederate Jasmine is used like a groundcover for the northern planters.

Furry, soft, sweet and whimsical with smaller blooms, the choices for our traditional groundcovers are limitless.  Here are a few that we use like lavender, lantana, verbena......many of the ones chosen for this series will be from this category.

Taken from the fern garden, I have a lot to say about this plant coming up in this series.
              And below....do you recognize the close up below on this beloved plant in Tucson?

And finally let's check out a tropical groundcover idea....

Again used in planters to fill in space under our large oaks, caladiums do a great job hiding the live oak suckers that pop up around the base.

As you can see, many plants can be considered groundcover plants.  We'll take a look into some fun and beautiful plants for your Zone 9 garden. If you go to some of the local nurseries, you'll notice that we have an endless choice of plants to choose from.  This series could not cover all of those plants, but I'll highlight a few.  I'll also let you know how these particular groundcovers did during our extreme freeze.  Most of these plants are perennial....so which ones made it and which ones didn't?  Stay tuned for more today.

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