Lamium, a Gracious Groundcover Perennial
July 5, 2010
Allan in Lamium, Perennial Plants, ground cover, lamium Anne Greenaway, perennials, rock garden plants

Lamium Anne GreenawayThe neighbor was being generous. He had just finished manicuring his rock garden and had buckets of extra Lamium to spare. I had just purchased my property and had three, 60 feet long, empty flower borders to landscape. Free perennials were always going to be welcome, or so I thought. Five years later, the free Lamium grew exponentially and every inch of flowerbed that had not been protected with the spreading foliage of other perennials, became a seeding ground for future generations of this now-unwelcome perennial.

I spent the last three years trying to rid my property of my neighbor’s gift. I no longer have a rock garden, where the spreading and anti erosion properties, that Lamium provides, are appreciated. As well, this ground cover has no purpose in my garden. All of the flowerbeds are test gardens for upright perennials. There are no applications, even in my client base, for spreading groundcover.

A while ago, my daughter in Boston e-mailed with an inquiry. Her husband had planted a row of solid color dark green Hosta along the edge of a rock garden that runs the length of a driveway. He left an empty space between the Hosta and the asphalt so that the Hosta might have room to grow. It was his expectation that these plants would spread to cover the border. After five years, they had not done so. They had been mature perennials, transplanted from other parts of his garden; they had done most of their spreading. Any additional growth would now take years. My daughter inquired if I would recommend a rugged and step-able plant to fill up the emptyness and Lamium sprang to mind instantly. I recommended the Anne Greenaway variety because I believed that its green/yellow variegations would appear luminous against the solid dark green foliage of the Hosta.

Recently, a client asked me to fill in a one-foot wide bed that separated a hedge of Spirea Magic Carpet from the walkway. The hedge foliage has a gold cast with pink flowers, and Anne Greenaway, once again, proved to be most appropriate. The yellow of its variegation combined with its pink flowers echoed the color scheme of the Spirea, while the small plug-size of its pot [I found it at a big box store] made it the perfect size to plant in such a small space.

That I recommended Lamium in both cases surprised me because after my experience trying to control and eventually get rid of it, it is no longer a favorite plant. I suppose that I must be an equal opportunity gardener; I recommend the best plant for the job, regardless of any other considerations.

Lamium would be appropriate for a rock garden, while the thick carpet of ground cover that it creates makes it an excellent anti-erosion plant.  Rugged and step able, it grows in damp or dry earth, from full sun to full shade, and needs no attention whatsoever. In spite of its aggressive growth, it is the most luminous of all groundcovers and one of the most floriferous. There are several varieties, each distinguished by its own particular leaf variegation or by the color of its flower. It also has a pleasant fragrance when in bloom. The white, silver, or gold variegation on its leaves are an attractive contrast to the solid green foliage of most other plants.

This is a vigorous but easily controllable spreader. Its roots are never so deep that they defy removal. Lamium is a fertile plant. Not only does it grow exponentially, but it is a prolific self sower. As well, it is easily propagated by planting even rootless stems, some in bloom, into damp earth. Lamium has the growth habit and hardiness of a weed so that even stressed-looking plants that appear to be poor quality, sickly, or even puny, will rejuvenate easily and increase in size in a very short time.

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/).
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