There’s nothing as tedious as pulling up weeds, and it’s a chore that takes up a lot of valuable time. Don’t despair – there are other things you can do to help control the problem. The first step is to mulch the garden, and then plant some ground covers. These plants spread across the ground and choke out the weeds, giving you a low maintenance garden. Don recommended planting the following ground covers to help suppress weeds:
Gardenia augusta ‘Radicans’, a prostrate form of gardenia, which grows about 0.5m tall and 1.5m wide (20 x 50"). It is an excellent ground cover with bright, glossy green leaves and semi-double, pure white perfumed flowers.
Grevillea ‘Bronze Rambler’ is a very popular ground cover grevillea, with bronze to red new growth and red toothbrush flowers throughout the year. The foliage is slightly layered rather than dense, so it is not very good at suppressing weeds.
Grevillea ‘Grassfire’ is a prostrate grevillea bred by Don Burke. It spreads to about 3m (10′), and has dense, attractive green foliage and bright red toothbrush flowers. This is an excellent ground cover grevillea for smothering weeds.
Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle’ is one of the most successful ground cover grevilleas. It has lush foliage with coppery red new growth, and red toothbrush flowers. Each plant has a spread of several metres, so for good coverage position plant centres 3m (10′) apart. This grevillea is worth trying in most areas of Australia.
Grevillea thelmanniana subsp. obtusifolia (formerly Grevillea obtusifolia) has dense grass-like foliage with occasional coral red flowers. A good choice for cooler areas.
Juniperus conferta or Shore Juniper is a first rate ground cover which occurs naturally in coastal areas of Japan. It grows to about 50cm (20") high with a spread of 2-3m (6-10′), and has soft, grey-green aromatic foliage. It is a very hardy plant, tolerant of pollution, poor soil and strong, salty winds.
Lantana montevidensis is a hardy, trailing ground cover with mauve-pink flowerheads, each one with a yellow eye. It is often used in difficult spots, such as median strips or dry banks. It does not have the weed potential of its relative L. camara, and is safe to grow in southern parts of Australia. However, it can become a weed in northern Australia. Other cultivars are available offering a range of colours. They include ‘Alba’, a pure white form spreading to 2-3m (6-10′); ‘Lavender Swirl’ with pastel pink and lavender flowers and a 2m (6′) spread; and ‘Rosie’, a pink flowering sport of ‘Lavender Swirl’.
Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Tricolor’ is a more compact, slower growing form of star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) with mottled and variegated leaves. New shoots may be white or pink. It does not flower well, and is grown as a ground cover for foliage contrast.
These ground covers are readily available at nurseries and garden centres, except for Grevillea ‘Grassfire’, which may be difficult to find. If you ask at your local nursery they will order it in for you. They will also advise you on the best ground covers to grow for your climate and situation.