The choice of ground cover plants for your garden or lawn paths depends on the effect you would like the foliage to have on the area. Aromatic herbs like thyme and mint release powerful, refreshing fragrances as you and your guests walk through them. However, if you prefer rich floral scents, low-growing plants such as periwinkle and pachysandra may better suit your needs.
Ornamental varieties of thyme, like creeping thyme and woolly thyme, are ideal for lining high-traffic paths. Most ornamental thyme grows to up to 3 inches in height and releases a pleasing, herbal aroma as you walk through it. The foliage is typically a greyish-green colour and the blooms are a pale pink or mauve colour. Ornamental thyme thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Other aromatic options are two varieties of mint, blue catmint and Corsican mint. Blue catmint is fast growing and requires lots of direct sunlight, although it will survive in partially shady areas. Its blooms are a light lavender colour and its foliage is a silvery-grey colour. Blue catmint blooms from May into August. Corsican mint is a low-growing deciduous plant with tiny leaves. This mint variety is typically used in the production of the liqueur creme de menthe, and is quite cool to the touch. It can thrive in both the sun and shade; however planting it in sunny spots will require that you water it more often. Most mint varieties thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8.
The two varieties of periwinkle often used as ground cover are the variegated and trailing varieties. Although they are of the same family, they look quite different from each other. Variegated periwinkle's foliage is light green and white, and its blooms are purplish blue. Trailing periwinkle's foliage is a deep, dark green and its blooms are a lighter, more lavender shade of purple that are more fragrant than those of its cousin. Variegated periwinkle only needs partial sun, but trailing periwinkle requires full sunlight to thrive. Periwinkle thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9.
Japanese pachysandra is the variety commonly used as ground cover, although any variety will do. Low growing and quite resilient, pachysandra will grow in almost any soil and weather conditions. Its foliage evolves from medium green to dark green as it matures and its blooms are a creamy white colour. Although it happens quite rarely, Japanese pachysandra can sometimes bear tiny white fruits, which are not edible.
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