Liriope jungle

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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. 

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