Now you know I’m a gardening geek…really, getting the response made my day :-). So, who, you might ask, is Mr. Smarty Plants? Actually, it’s not one person, it’s several people who all answer questions about native plants sent in to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Information Network.
I was looking for a recommendation about a ground cover that could withstand the heavy rainfall right next to the west wall of our townhouse. See the full question and response here. Unfortunately, Mr. Smarty Plant’s answer was essentially, that’s a tough question. They did suggest several shade-tolerant ground covers native to Massachusetts, and I was pleased to note that I have several of them already, but I don’t think most will work in these conditions. Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger) is much slower to grow and spread than the European ginger and I’m not sure I could get it established in this spot; I love both Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) and Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood) but have yet to have either of them survive and thrive again after a winter; Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is kind of fragile, I think, and needs to be mostly undisturbed. It grows in deep shade under my Weeping Alaskan Cedars, which I love, but I doubt I could get it established with the kind of hard rainfall that this area gets. I haven’t tried Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) and perhaps I should, or Barren Strawberry? That’s done well in a few areas of my garden. The best suggestion, I think, is sedum, which I could grow elsewhere and then move over as a mat. I’ve got a couple of sedums growing elsewhere in difficult spots, but I don’t know if I can identify the specific kind of sedum, or find this one: Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop) in a nursery around here.
I may go with a succession planting scheme, starting with some fast-growing and tough non-natives, to hold the erosion at bay, and then start to move in a native ground cover.