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I'm looking for options to cover some ground around a cabin we will be building soon. It will be a heavily wooded lot. Don't want to deal with mowing it every week either. I'll have a path that goes where we need one

Want to stay away from anything too intrusive that would get into our stone dust path. I will have landscape fabric under the stone dust though. What are my options? I also want to keep it low to the ground so we can enjoy the views.

  • What is the climate there? Moss comes to mind as one way to meet your needs, but you would need to be in a moderate temperature high humidity climate (such as the coastal Pacific Northwest forest lands). This is outside the realm of possibility for a cabin in the CO rockies, So, where is your cabin? – Jim Young Mar 18 '16 at 1:52
  • @JimYoung, It's in Northern KY. – NKY Homesteading Mar 18 '16 at 3:00
  • Does it need to be lawn-like? How will you use the space? – michelle Mar 18 '16 at 3:25
  • @michelle, no, any kind of low ground cover that does well in shade would work. I just don't want somthing to mow and I'd like something that would choke out weeds. – NKY Homesteading Mar 18 '16 at 11:17
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A shady mix lawn could be done. It will likely need maintenance/reseeding every year.

A mix of low-growing native forest edge plants could be used. This could include some of the native prairie grasses, which grow naturally in forest openings in your area, but won't be lawn-like.

Moss is also an option, but in my experience it is pretty fragile and may require a lot of maintenance to keep it going if there is any foot traffic.

You could also consider hardscaping the area immediately around the house with something like flagstones, and then planting low-growing perennials, like violets, in between the stones. This would be a lot of work to build initially, but afterwards the maintenance is minimal, you have an area you can easily walk through, and it looks quite lovely.

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I have a large amount of vinca minor, which I think would be a good choice for you. It's low-growing, reaching about an inch at maturity. It's also vine-like, with long trailing stems that cover the roots of even your biggest trees. It has very shallow roots, so even if it gets near your path, all you have to do is pinch it back or pluck it out. The dark oval-shaped leaves are pretty all year round. Lovely, low-lying purple/blue flowers bloom profusely in the spring and fall, and sporadically through the summer.

Vinca is hardy in zones 4-8 (I'm in 6), tolerant of most types of soil, especially the type of moist ground that's common under trees, and is very easy to grow. Even though it's mostly a shade plant, it thrives in some sun, and I use it as a border behind some sunny annuals like marigolds and salvia.

It also transplants very easily. This year I pulled some out, stuck the roots in potting soil and it became a really pretty trailing element in my shade-growing window boxes, where it's held its color all winter.

Some people call it invasive, but for me, that's a good thing. As you can see from my picture, it quickly fills in any space. It will also wrap around sedum, hostas, and any other shade plants in the area.

Click on picture for bigger view.

Vinca Minor

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How about some small evergreen ferns? Which ones would depend on whether dry shade or damp shade. How about a carpet of primulas/primroses, or cowslips?

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