Hello and thank you for the opportunity to post questions, it is much appreciated specially for a complete beginner like me.
Last year we bought a house in Toronto and I want to work on the front yard. I do have a specific image in my mind but not really sure how to go about it. The first obstacle is regarding ground cover.
Let me tell you a bit about the yard- sketch included – It’s about 17 feet wide, about 4-5 feet deep, and facing west. I’ll say it’s partial sun – meaning it’s sunny for a part of the day and less sunny for the other part – not really sure if the classification is right.
When we bought the house it had – and still has – a dwarf globe cedar (1 on the image ), dwarf mugus pine ( 2 ), emerald cedar can’t remember if they said dwarf as well (3 ) , and dwarf alberta spruce (4). I like all of those, so we’re happy they’re there and want to keep them. At the time we bought it we got some ornamental grasses from a friend, a dark bluish green kind of spiked one that I have no idea of what kind it is ( 5 ) two sweet flag (6) and another tall dark green one that I also don’t know the name (7). I also like those very much. I kind of prefer greens to actual flowers and didn’t want to put any in that area closer to the sidewalk, but it seemed so empty that I thought about something else. I wanted to get a ground cover for the rest of the space and at the same time I got two kind of shallow clay pots where I can put some seasonal plants or even a few seasonal flowers. Meanwhile I started looking at every yard I passed by and noticing the ground covers. I found out that the one I like the most – meaning really, really like and want – but apparently is invasive and not recommended. I found out that the one I like is called periwinkle and some people told me that it is not suggested at all because it is invasive ( I’m not sure exactly what it means, or rather I know what the word means, but it seems to me that a big number of plants would be invasive, no? ) but that stopped me on my tracks I don’t want to have the neighbours running after me because my ground cover is invading their space. So here are my questions: 1 – is periwinkle really a bad thing to have and if so are there any alternatives that would fit all or most of the criteria as all year green, nice dark green kind of small shiny leaves, tiny flowers if at all and quite low? (I did check the pdf regarding lawn cover alternatives but none of the choices seemed to be what I”m looking for except maybe for japanese spurge and that one seems to be for shade ) 2- What is already in there is appropriate for the space, sun/shade, and playing nice with each other? 3. Whatever ground cover I end up getting either periwinkle if what I was told is wrong, or anything else in case they’re right, will it kill the ornamental grasses that I also like a lot?4. Once the ground cover problem is solved is it to late to get it now ? And do they take a long time to spread?
As you see in the image there is the flowerbed by the porch that I found out has tulips and then something else grew after the tulips later that I don’t know what it is but is beautifully green, very tiny flowers and tall which is fine for the place it is. I like that and don’t want to change it. Just the L shape strip by the sidewalk.
I’m sorry that I really might not know exactly what I”m talking about, I never did any gardening but I’m learning and actually enjoying it. Last year for the first time we actually grew vegetables in the backyard and I will never stop, loved it! Now I really wanted to work on the front yard, but need to solve the ground cover problem first.
Again thank you so much for the opportunity to ask my questions.
Thank you so much for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners with your gardening questions.
Your garden is considered sunny because it faces west. The afternoon sun is usually warmer than the morning sun.
Yes, Periwinkle (Vinca minor) is invasive in Ontario. Despite its cute name, it does not play nice with other plants. Periwinkle strangles its neighbours’ roots. In our gardens, woods and parks, ravines, it is a hazard to native shrubs, grasses and vines.
So…I would suggest that you go to one of the biggest nurseries during a quiet time and consult with an expert. There are so many great ground covers that will suit you. I can think of two that you might like; Bugleweed (Ajuga) and thyme (Thymus).
You are right that many plants are invasive somewhere given the right conditions.
For more information, contact the Ontario Invasive Plant Council or go to the website: https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca. Under Take Action go to Gardeners and Horticulturalists for the ‘Grow me instead‘ brochure for Southern Ontario.
Good luck with your makeover of this area.