Tuesday, October 13, 2009

horseherb: I like it as native groundcover for a lawnless lawn

A few weeks ago, Meredith at Great Stems published a great, informative post (with lots of interesting comments) about the love/hate affair many of us Central Texan gardeners have with our native horseherb--her post says it all!

I commented about how much I appreciate horseherb in my garden yards as our main groundcover. Meredith was interested in seeing it used in a lawn, as she'd observed it mostly in park-like settings. We no longer own a lawnmower and only need to use our electric weedeater once a year or so. It took us seven years to get to this point (no chemicals), but we find pulling weeds more rewarding than mowing grass.

along east walkway--easily pulled out and replaced with mulch when it gets carried away, which might be soon with our recent needed rains

near front porch with new softleaf yucca

other side walkway

filling in among xeric cenizo, sotol, and purple fountaingrass

I really like how the brighter green horseherb, with its little yellow flowers, contrasts with the surrounding grayer and purpler lavender, fountaingrass, and rosemary.

mixing in with prolific chocolate mint and trailing lantana in city right of way

back yard, surrounding huge 65+ year-old Sycamore tree and mingling with Turk's Cap, ruellia, and rain-beaten (yes!) plumbago.


TexasDeb said...

Well now, that is just gorgeous. Much nicer than St. Augustine and better for the environment as well I'll wager. I guess I have some (fleabane is one of my favorite groundcovers so perhaps I have neglected to appreciate the horseherb around here) but can't say I've noticed. Does horseherb stay green year 'round mostly or does it freeze back in winter to reappear in warmer weather?

Iris said...

Deb--Thanks! We like fleabane, too but don't seem to have much. Horseherb doesn't stay green all year. It turns brown/disappears in winter and bounces back in spring.

It's particularly lush right now from the rain, but during the past two ghastly dry summers, it totally fried except for the few patches that were in more shade next to plants I was watering. I just didn't care that it was dead all summer because I knew it would come back.

Although the yellow flowers are tiny, I have seen butterflies and bees on them!

Anonymous said...

It's lovely.--Soft & delicate. Laura

cat said...

i'm so glad you posted this. i'd read meredith's post and was so happy to find out about horseherb as we have it taking over the back and thought, "oh no...so much work!" now we will just leave it as we really do love it..:) perfect compliment to our wildlife habitat...thanks!

Iris said...

Laura and cat-- So happy to hear y'all appreciate horseherb, too!

Wendy said...

That horseherb is really nice! So if it dies in the winter, and comes back in the spring, do you have weeds or does the horseherb choke that out pretty quickly?

Iris said...

Hi Wendy--We always have a variety of weeds, but after having some thick, well-established horseherb, it's pretty easy to pull out the weeds, even if it means digging up some of the horseherb in the process.

In our experience, you just pat down the horseherb where it's been uprooted during your weeding and it comes back fine.

Meredith said...

I almost missed this post because because you snuck it in while I was on vacation! Your horseherb looks lovely mixed in with all your perennials and shrubs. I can't wait for mine to spread across the yard! Seven years is a long time, though... Guess I'll have to keep gardening in the meantime... :)

Iris said...

Meredith- It didn't take seven whole years to encourage the horseherb to spread; it took that long to go from a conventional, all-grass-no-plants yard to what it looks like now, no-grass-lotsa-plants. Soon I'll post a 1992-era "before" pic and 2009-era "after" pic.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

I'm in the camp of horseherb haters. Certainly if you have a shady place where nothing else is going to grow it's a good replacement for English ivy.

In my case I grow a lot of self sowing annuals like bluebonnets, larkspur, and nigella. Horseherb will smother these plants relentlessly and choke everything else out as well including clumps of smaller ornamental grasses and rainlilies.

Once you have it you will never get rid of it. I had a section under black plastic for 3 months of summer...and it came back. If you dig it up, it grows from every root broken off in the ground. It self sows and sends out runners.

On the upside it can be mowed. So it's certainly preferable to a water-sucking lawn for those who want an easy and cheap ground cover.

Iris said...

mss--We did want an easy lawn replacement. It certainly can be a bully, too. I just spent allot of time and effort yanking it out of my veggie beds. I think it may have irreparably weakened my beet seedlings. I'll never procrastinate about weeding like that again!