Sunday, November 23, 2008

Groundcovers: lessons from Italy

In my never ending quest to find groundcover solutions to "hands-free" garden maintenance (I know, no such thing), I've been browsing through photos of groundcovering wildflowers and grasses I saw in Italy a few years ago. Looking forward to spring in western New Jersey, there may be lessons - certainly not ideas for specific plants - but observable growth habits, mixtures of forms and colors, that I can take from the Italian countryside.

I took these photos in late April of 2003 on a roadside just below Todi in Umbria. Previously we had always traveled to Italy in the fall, so this was my first experience of the Italian spring. I was amazed to find so many plants well adapted to the stressful environment of a busy roadside. Above and below is an unidentified Hawksbit (Leontodon). Notice the roadside gravel in the image below. This plant is growing only a foot or so from the traffic.

A striking carpet of grasses and a plant I can't identify (below). I can imagine this matrix of chaos and geometry in the foreground of a Renaissance tapestry or painting.

Italian bugloss (Anchusa azurea, I think), also right beside the road...

and a closeup showing more of the intense blue ...

Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) growing out in the field ...

and beside the road with short, early grasses ...

I'm guessing this is a sanguisorba, but you tell me ...

All of this was adjacent to Tiber River Park ...

We couldn't see the Tiber. This was the view.

I imagine these matrices of plants were transient. It would be revealing to see what plants - if any - were growing along this roadside after the hot, dry summer. Though climate change hasn't yet brought Mediterranean summers to western New Jersey, I'm sure I'll need to consider a succession of cool and hot weather plants to get a weed suppressing cover through the entire growing season.

1 comment:

  1. Of all the poppy pictures I have ever seen, this is undoubtedly the prettiest.
    I mean the second one down. Diagonal and with grasses; what more could one want?
    (sorry, I do not blog and have no account.)



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