by Charlene Burgi
After watching the hardy geranium quickly fill in the planting beds, I thought I had found the perfect groundcover. The foliage is so thick that the sun cannot penetrate, preventing weed seeds from germinating. Early spring finds masses of flowers sitting proud above the toothed, parsley-like leaves. During the summer, random flowers continue to appear, capturing the attention of anyone who walks by. It is a low-grower that enhances the ground beneath shrubs in the garden. It performs well in the sun and shade. How could any groundcover top it?
Last year, I blindly purchased a little plant called Saponaria ocymoides without learning about it first. It had a charming pink flower at the tip of the stem that caught my eye, and I found it would grow in zones 2-9. The tag stated it was also resistant to deer and rabbit foraging. That clinched the deal. I would try one on a rocky slope—one of the most difficult areas for plants to grow. The first year’s growth was nothing much to write about, and it completely disappeared during the winter months. In the spring, I was surprised to see new growth appearing from under the bark. I was doubly surprised to see the plant increase its size by tenfold. Within months of emerging, the gray-green mass is now covered in those charming pink flowers. The plant tumbles lazily over rocks and is located in part of the garden that sees little water. It is a direct target for any critter likely to sample a bite, yet the plant remains unscathed.
Hummingbirds seem to flock to this area of the garden. I am not certain if it is the Agastache (hummingbird mint) planted nearby or the Saponaria that the little hummers are most attracted to for nectar. Bees are also regular visitors, collecting their bounty from the little pink flowers—a beneficial insect dream come true.
Are you struggling to find a plant to fill in a rocky hillside? You might consider looking for this little beauty at your favorite nursery. Just remember to provide good drainage, a sunny location and room for it to sprawl. You won’t be sorry.