Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Liriope jungle

A friend recently asked, "What do you think of liriope as a ground cover?" I had to laugh. I'd spent several hours earlier that day yanking this troublesome, promiscuous plant from a side yard, where it was planted four years ago and now is choking everything else in the bed. "I hate it!" I yelled. Perhaps too strong a sentiment for a ground cover that really is pretty - long, elegant leaves, tiny black berries in the fall, fast-growing, great cover and works equally well in sun, shade and parts in between. So why do I hate it? Because after a few years, the stuff gets dense, traps leaves, and spreads prolifically under and through fences, from stem to stern. And, this may be a city thing, but dogs seem to love liriope. I can always tell when the dogs have been by. The green turns a brassy yellow - even in spring.

Liriope jungle

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

A friend recently asked, "What do you think of liriope as a ground cover?" I had to laugh. I'd spent several hours earlier that day yanking this troublesome, promiscuous plant from a side yard, where it was planted four years ago and now is choking everything else in the bed. "I hate it!" I yelled. Perhaps too strong a sentiment for a ground cover that really is pretty - long, elegant leaves, tiny black berries in the fall, fast-growing, great cover and works equally well in sun, shade and parts in between. So why do I hate it? Because after a few years, the stuff gets dense, traps leaves, and spreads prolifically under and through fences, from stem to stern. And, this may be a city thing, but dogs seem to love liriope. I can always tell when the dogs have been by. The green turns a brassy yellow - even in spring.

I offered this friend as much liriope as she wants, any time. "Come on over," I said.

So it was with added amusement that I opened an email from another friend this week. He was very excited about this great ground cover he'd used in a garden design. "It's a good example of how a single plant (Liriope), when meticulously installed in the proper variety, can provide a dramatic landscaping effect, in the proper setting," he wrote.
 

Very true. And I'm sure his liriope was installed in the proper variety and setting. I know darned well his new landscape is dramatic and wonderful. My side yard, nonetheless, remains a liriope jungle. This photo is a nice alternative: Allegheny spurge or native pachysandra. It's about the same size as liriope but unlike the Japanese pachysandra that you see everywhere, its leaves are bigger and turn a pretty red in the fall. And while it gets the job done as a ground cover, it doesn't strangle everything else. 

About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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