Dense And Durable


Dense planting not only looks nice, it protects our garden’s most precious resource, our soil.


Vinca minor forms a dense ground cover in this mixed border beneath shrubs, spring bulbs, Violas and emerging perennials.


A newly planted bed, whose perennials and ground covers haven’t yet grown in, looks rather naked and unfinished.  But all of that exposed soil provides a receptive spot for weed seeds to germinate with abandon.  It takes a great deal of time and effort to keep the weeds pulled.




Naked soil also runs off in heavy rain, dries out quickly, and can get compacted.  Mulch helps, but living mulch in the form of ground cover and dense planting holds the soil and looks far more interesting.



That is why most experienced gardeners will recommend dense, close planting in beds and pots.  And most experienced gardeners also plan for a low growing ground cover plants as the ‘shoes and socks’ of their designs.


Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ fills this pot planted with bulbs. Bits of Sedum Angelina poke through the dense mat of Ajuga.  A Zantedeschia will soon emerge, if it survived winter in this pot.


In a pot, some ground covers will eventually take over, given the chance.  Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, will eventually fill a pot with its own roots.  But it is a beautiful plant in its own right.

Gardeners willing to dig and divide the plant seasonally, and re-plant the design, find it very useful.


Creeping Jenny spills from the white pot, planted in November beneath the Helleborus “Snow Fever.’ Moss (center) also makes a good, dense ground cover in pots and doesn’t compete with other plants in the container.


Vinca minor also grows aggressively, striking new roots from its leaf nodes as it creeps along the ground.  It loves our garden. 

I frequently find myself weeding out clumps of it in newly established beds where I want other plants to establish.  And yet, I must admit that it looks beautiful growing beneath spring bulbs and around shrubs.

When it blooms each spring, its flowers contrast beautifully with daffodils.  But its evergreen leaves also give the garden color and structure throughout the year.



Ajuga reptans, another low growing, flowering perennial, remains one of my favorite ground cover plants.  It forms dense mats of beautiful, colorful leaves which look good throughout the winter months.

And then it blooms with gorgeous flowers for a few weeks in the spring.  I would grow it for its flowers, even if it weren’t such a wonderful ground cover plant.  Is use it in pots, beds, and for edging.

Its dense mat of leaves protects the soil from erosion in heavy rain and cools the soil in summer’s heat.  It helps retain moisture, a living mulch, around shrubs.



Perennials like Ajuga, which spread with runners, eventually form dense, ever growing clumps.  When planted, it is wise to space them a bit apart, knowing they will soon grow together.

Once you have plants like Ajuga, Vinca, Ivy, Lysimachia, and many Sedums established in your garden, you can easily divide them and spread them around.  Many of these root easily in water or damp soil.  Their interesting colors provide interest and contrast when paired with other plants.


Another beautiful ground cover vine, Lamium also forms a dense mat in partial shade, protecting the soil, and  blooms in the spring.


So go dense when planting.  Protect the soil, conserve water, and create a rich tapestry of form and color in your garden.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017



for the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Dense


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

4 responses to “Dense And Durable

  1. Beauty grows in your garden! ❤

    • That is always the plan! We have started a new shade bed on a steep slope which has suffered a great deal of erosion. I’m in the process of creating some terraces, and will end up with 4 new Rhododendrons and a nice assortment of ferns. Caladiums will fill the bed this summer. Terracing this area should make a huge improvement in the back garden, and definitely help with run off after heavy rain…. .like we have today. There are still new places to dig around here… 😉 Is the “S” word back in your forecast??? Hope you are ready for a good weekend, e ❤

  2. Pingback: Dense: Patterns | What's (in) the picture?

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