Tuesday Mar 15 2011
Clover gets St. Paddy’s cheer as user-friendly ground cover
By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
Less maintenance and water than lawn grass
Finding a four-leaf clover is said to bring good luck. And planting clover as a ground cover will cut down on yard chores. Find traditional white Dutch at Eisley It can be a good substitute for lawn grass, according to Pam Bernet, sales associate at Eisley Nursery in Auburn. “You’re going to water it less. It needs less care,” she said. “Occasionally it will get tall enough that it will need to be mowed.” Eisley carries seed for the white Dutch trifolium variety — the typical St. Patrick’s Day “shamrock” that produces white flowers in the spring. White Dutch likes sun and “is not real tolerant of heavy shade,” Bernet said. With spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to plant it. “If you’re growing it from seed, just sprinkle the seeds and give them a light covering of soil, then keep it lightly moist until it sprouts,” she said. She cautions, though, that clover is not for everyone. “The flowers attract bees and people are pretty phobic about bees,” Bernet said. Some critters also find it pretty tasty. “It seems the deer will eat it, where they won’t eat lawn grass,” she said. It’s also not an option for homeowners who want a lawn free of anything but blades of grass. You should also beware of interlopers— the clover-like weed oxalis. “There are several kinds that grow abundantly and they can infiltrate lawns and drive lawn people crazy,” Bernet said. When shopping, look for perennials. The many types of clover include annuals as well. Another option is red clover, which can grow to about 2 feet tall. “It is a winter cover and improves your soil,” Bernet said. “People often put it in for the winter, let it bloom in the spring and then take it out when it dies.” High Hand has hybridized oxalis At High Hand Nursery in Loomis, manager Lyn Bristol says hybridized oxalis creates a nice ground cover. “They’ve been hybridized to become more ornamental,” she explained. Bristol recommends the wine variety, which has dark purple leaves with lavender flowers. It is available in quart-size containers at the nursery. It mixes well with other plants because the foliage is very nice, Bristol said. It is easy care but needs watering regularly. “It makes a nice little low-growing ground cover,” she said. “The (plants) like morning sun up to full sun.” Another popular use is in pots. “(Particularly) the one with dark foliage because it plays off really well against other plants,” she said. Yamasaki specializes in ‘Stepables’ Yamasaki Nursery has white Dutch clover in its line of “Stepables.” “It’s a ground cover you can walk on,” retail manager Jeff Arnold said. The variety he carries takes on a greener tint in the shade and becomes more red in the sun. “It is hardy. It reseeds,” he said. “So if it dies in the winter, it will come back in the spring. It’s a great lawn replacement.” Yamasaki offers the clover in “3-inch container-like plugs” that can be used to fill in or replace a grass lawn entirely. Although it does need less water than a lawn, it is not totally drought-tolerant, Arnold said. Reach Gloria Young at email@example.com.