Our back yard, heavy with shade, displayed a couple of focal points – the pergola and the ponds – and some unique plants. Dirt smothered everything else. Remember the dirt? What to do with the dirt? We didn’t want a back yard consisting of dirt. Dirt tends to turn to mud during the monsoon season; dust in the summer heat. We needed to cover the dirt with something.
Ground covers support unique landscape situations. We might envision a carpet between other plant beds or need something to fill between hardscaping. On a slope that needs covering to prevent erosion we might plant low growing junipers or ivy. For a section of the yard we didn’t want to mulch we planted the wedelia around a tree where we needed an accent.
However, we were trying to cover up an entire yard. Our little reptile friends required somewhere to play. The skinks needed to slink. The armadillos and possums needed to waddle.
A good gardening theory: “plant a lot of different plants and see what survives.” A corollary to the theory: “plant of different plants together and see who wins.”
We planted vinca major, swamp fern, holly fern, leather leaf fern, Algerian ivy, English ivy, mondo grass, spider plants, liriope.
Vinca major, the unloved big brother of vinca minor, tries to kill everything in its way. Vinca major does not grow well in deep shade. We planted the vinca major in a shady area of the front yard and let attack the lawn.
Ivy likes the deep shade, also. If English ivy is boring, try the larger leaved Algerian ivy. The saying with ivy – “sleep, creep, leap.” The first year it does nothing. The second year it creeps along, satisfied. The third year it takes over. Just what we wanted.
Mondo grass, monkey grass, liriope, spider plants – all the same concept if different plants. The spider plants may be a little more invasive with their shoots. They didn’t do well against the ivy, though. Planting borders of mondo grass, monkey grass, liriope, and spider plants along walks and beds is a waste of a good invasive. Plant them everywhere. Let them fill in; take over.
A year or so after this project I stood in the back yard holding a hand trowel and heard a baby cry out. Nearby. In the yard. Looking around I saw no baby, of course, but I heard the noise again, less than ten feet away. I walked over toward the sound expecting a bird or something. Standing still for a few minutes, again, a plaintive cry from right in front of me. Green foliage at least four inches thick covered the ground. I bent down. Using the trowel I parted the greenery.
A frog, or part of a frog, breathing heavily, was not moving. I parted more greenery to see the rest of his body and saw an eye looking up at me near the mouth which held the frog’s leg in a tight grip.
“What’s your business here, Punk?” the steely eye and clenched teeth seemed to say.
During the next four seconds, these thoughts flashed though my head:
Leave them alone.
You have no business here.
Survival of the fittest.
Kill the snake.
The snake’s going to bite you, idiot.
If you move you will lose sight of both of them.
In a compromise move I planted the trowel where I thought the snake’s neck might be, but not with any force. I saw the frog hop away out of the greenery (without a look back or a thank you) and I picked up the trowel and stepped back two steps and watched the snake slither away from me and the frog.
Life in thick, moist ground cover.
Makes me sort of yearn for the arid desert.