Carpet Roses and Other Select Ground Covers

Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Q: I live in Northridge, closer to West Van Nuys than to Porter Ranch. My front flower bed faces east and is in the sun from morning until around 3 or 4 p.m. This is fine for my roses and my day lilies, but I’m wondering what kind of low-growing, flowering plants other than annuals I could plant there. Could you tell me about the so-called carpet or ground cover roses? When do you plant them, how should they be fertilized, and how high do they grow?
– S. Schless, Northridge
A: In the Valley, you can plant ground cover or flower carpet roses throughout the year. They are available in white, pink, apple blossom and red. At the nursery, each patented flower carpet rose, in its own plastic pot, is sold with a packet of fertilizer and needs to be constantly fed. These plants are starting to bloom again right now and will continue to do so until the fall.
Flower carpet roses grow about 18 inches tall. They make a dependable ground cover and trail gracefully out of balcony planters and patio containers. Planted in the ground, carpet roses should be spaced three feet from each other. They are not brilliant flowering subjects from a distance, but in sidewalk and entry planters where can be appreciated at close range.
Low-growing, mounding perennials are dear to the heart of just about any gardener. Two blue-flowered species come to mind: ground morning glory (Convolvulus mauritanicus) and blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus). Of similar growth habit is the the white-flowered, silver-leafed bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) and the very low mounding rose-flowered bush germander (Teucrium cossonii majoricum). If the idea of a soft-textured, lacy-leafed silvery mound (albeit without interesting flowers) strikes your fancy, then you will want to plant a variety of wormwood known as Artemisia “Powis Castle.”
The Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) probably has more flowers in bloom at a given moment than any other shrub on earth; pinkish white daisy flowers by the hundreds cover a single mounding plant for months on end. The dwarf crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii “Indian”) has red flower bracts 365 days a year and the dwarf or compact Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria “Princess lily”) flowers year-round with pink or salmon blooms.
In response to a recent column on the Norfolk Island pine, Anne Zedalis of Burbank e-mailed: “Five years ago I bought this tiny Norfolk Island pine for the holidays. It cost $2 and was about 6 inches high. It grew like crazy, so I planted it into larger and larger pots. When it was 3 years old I put it in the ground and it is now almost 30 feet high with enormous wide branches. It’s incredible to say the least. I have not found it to be sensitive to our heat and cold. It may be subtropical, but it grows like crazy here in Burbank. It’s like Jack and the Beanstalk to me. Incredible. I have hummingbird feeders in it as the birds enjoy sitting on its long branches.”
TIP OF THE WEEK: If you are looking for a colorful and water-saving alternative to annual flowers, consider planting from a select group of perennial succulents with colorful leaves. Succulents with colorful foliage include Senecio serpens (blue), Aeonium “Sunburst” (cream, white, and pink variegation), Aeonium arboreum “Atropurpureum” (dark purple), Euphorbia tirucalli “Sticks of Fire” (yellow, orange and red variegation), Crassula “Flame” (red-orange), Echeveria hybrids (lavender, pink or blue-gray) and Dudleya species (chalky white to light blue). These succulents grow best in half-day Valley sun. Mix in dwarf New Zealand flax and dwarf Nandina for additional water-thrifty, colorful-leafed species.

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