The Q&A Archives: Low Maintenance Groundcover

Question: I am planning on removing a large section of grass on my property. It runs along the driveway and is about 100 ft long by about 25 to 30 ft wide. I want to plant some maples, pines and lombardy's but not sure what to do with replacing the grass. I would like preferably a low growing evergreen but also want color, no maintainence and something that could take some traffic occasionally. Can you help?

Answer: My first caution is about lombardy poplars -- though they are fast-growing, they live only about 30 years, and are prone to disease (look for the more disease resistant cultivar 'Majestic'). They may work as a fill-in while the slower-growing trees are maturing, but be sure to cull them when they start to decline. That's a few years off, but I just had to let you know!

As a groundcover in acidic soil, a native is best. How about wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)? It is evergreen, provides not only dark green, glossy, shade-tolerant foliage, but bright red, edible berries as well. Carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans) comes in many varieties, some with variegated or purple foliage. Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) has a beautifully scented bloom in the early spring, and it's glossy green leaves hug the ground. None of these tolerate much traffic, so it's best to incorporate some paths to cut across the area. Or you could plant some sections to a low-growing, shade and traffic tolerant fescue for cross-lots travel. Hope this helps!

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