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Mr. Smarty Plants - Groundcover for area with impact from rain from roof

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Friday - June 25, 2010

From: Cambridge, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for area with impact from rain from roof
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

The small garden on the side of my townhouse gets some hard rainfall during every storm. We've found ways of redirecting and using much of the rainfall (gutter and downspout to rain barrel, permeable brick walkway in the hardest hit area), but some rain comes off a roof angle three stories up and splatters dirt out of the garden bed. Can you recommend a ground cover that could handle the strong rainfall and help to retain the soil in this bed? I have planted a Coast Azalea and Dog Hobble there to cover the concrete foundation. Both are beautiful, and doing well so far, but the continuing erosion of the soil around them worries me. The area gets lots of sun in the early spring, then is shaded by a nearby dogwood and other plantings. I'm considering planting European wild ginger (which I have a lot of) to protect the soil, but would prefer to put in native plants. Any suggestions? Thanks!

ANSWER:

This sounds like a real challenge! I'm not sure any plant is going to be able withstand a heavy periodic downfall of water.  You best bet might be to consider adding a layer of attractive gravel or larger stones to the area that receives the impact of the falling water.  The water would penetrate the rocks and still provide moisture for your plants.  If you don't want to use gravel-type rocks, you could consider larger decorative stones that would serve as a splash area to spread the water and keep it from impacting the soil. Here in Texas we might use honeycomb limestone, but such rocks are probably not easily available to you in Massachusetts.  However, they might be available at an aquarium store.   Here are some photos of landscapes using rocks of various sizes/colors/shapes. 

You might be able to use a groundcover in the area if you protect it while it is getting established.  You could build a frame above the plants with a permeable (to light and water) material over it that would break the impact of the falling water until the plants are well-established.  Or, you might plant a groundcover around any rocks that you add.  If you decide to try a groundcover with the rocks or alone, here are some possibilities that are native to Massachusetts:

Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger) is very similar to Asarum europaeum (European ginger), but is native to North America.

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) is a very low shrub and is evergreen.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is a low evergreen herb.

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood) is a low perennial that has attractive flowers in the late spring and summer and red berries in the fall.

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) is a low perennial with edible fruit.

Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop) is a perennial low-growing succulent.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Asarum canadense

Gaultheria procumbens

Mitchella repens

Cornus canadensis

Fragaria vesca

Sedum ternatum

 

 

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