Will I regret switching to a living mulch?

ViolaWittrockiana (Zone 5b Montreal)
April 27, 2019
last modified: April 27, 2019

I have a semi-edible flower garden under a 100 year old silver maple (Quebec, 5b). I have dwarf blueberries, dward lilac, hydrangeas, hibiscus, two hardy kiwis on a pergola, a cotoneaster mini hedge, a mid size Saskatchewan berry tree, a few echineacias, a lollipop crabapple and truckloads of hostas and ferns.

I also have some creeping jenny between stepping stones, which gave me the idea of planting a creeper instead of mulch (then I discovered there is even a term for that). I want to try another creeper.

The helicopters from the maple demand mulch though using a blower also is trouble because it lifts the mulch as well. I also started move more and more to permaculture solutions and a fully perennial garden with little work. This year I am thinking about using low groundcovers instead of mulch (and then blowing the heck out of helicopters when they land), but have concerns that the root systems of new plants will compete with already struggling plants (due to the roots of the maple). A few ideas I have assuming they have shallow roots:

- vinca minor

- wild/alpine strawberries

- clover

- wintergreen

Any other recommendations for super low growing plants (due to many dwarf plants), particularly native ones to the area (Quebec) or warnings before I reach the point of no return?

Thanks a bouquet!

Comments (6)

  • annpat

    The most beautiful ground cover I ever saw in a yard was vaccinium angustifolium.

  • ViolaWittrockiana (Zone 5b Montreal)

    oh my! i remember a few years ago we camped and the ground was covered in these tiny blueberries and ferns. i'd love to create it in my own backyard.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I wouldn't consider the vinca. It is much too aggressive for this stuation and has the ability to overwhelm and smother smaller plants.

    The strawberry (either beach or alpine) is a good choice but does not provide very dense coverage. It'll grow darn near anywhere, though - sun or shade, moist or dry. The wintergreen needs fairly rich soil and good moisture to establish but will tolerate drier conditions once that happens.

    I have never used the blueberry as a groundcover but have use a low growing relative, lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-ideae), wth great success in the same manner so that's a good suggestion.

    ViolaWittrockiana (Zone 5b Montreal) thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • functionthenlook

    I don't think you will regret living mulch. We have some kind of ground cover under our maple. I will be darn I know what it is, but when we moved in it was sparse and unhealthy. I put Osmocote on it every spring to give it the food the maple is stealing and it is full and lush now. It is much easier to blow off the helicopters and fall leaves. Zone 6

  • kimpa zone 9a N. Florida.

    For part shade areas I use lamium Maculatum. I love this groundcover. i prefer looking at plants rather than mulch!

  • ViolaWittrockiana (Zone 5b Montreal)

    Reporting that in different and and isolated-between spaces I now have

    -Veronica repens (blue flowering kind)

    -Fragaria vesca

    -Sagina subulata

    -Gallum odoratum

    I really wanted to try a few of your suggestions, but these ended up what were locally available to me from nurseries I have access to.

    I expect one or two fail (I tried Gallum odoratum unsucesfully before), or on the opposite case, i will have a jungle of groundcover in a few years. I am ok with the latter. I decided to turn the backyard into a lush escapist space instead of something architectural or human-made.

    And on the back alley, a space the city owns but citizens plant and take care, and children play, put some Ajuga chocolate chip. I heard ajuga is a spreader. Not much has grown on the sandy clay strip there, so if this grows YAY!!!

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