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Hello,

I am relatively new to garden railroading and I am looking for ground covers that can grow in mostly sunny conditions. I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin so our winters can be rather cold at times. Would anyone have some recommendations and maybe some pictures of the proposed ground cover?

Thanks,
Mike
 

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I can tell you what not to use. Sedum. Planted some and it has spread like crazy. Have resorted to round-up. My dad was trying to grow it where it was not sunny. When planted in the sun it really took off. It grows over and under the track and evades other plants.

I have had good luck with some tymes. Lemmon tyme works well and seems to resemble the brush around the right of ways.

I live across Lake Michigan in Berrien Springs MI. Just a little further south then you. It may be a little more temperate because of the lake.
 

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Yeah, thymes are great. High Country Gardens has a nice catalog. There are dwarf types and creeping types. Some can get sort of tall, so read the labels. Have found it occasionally at local greenhouses, but that is sort of rare around here. I'm in Nebraska and they hold up pretty well.
 

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I am in the Ottawa Valley, Canada ... compared to Milwaukee, the climate is a bit colderr, wetter and the growing season shorter though snow cover is uaually very reliable.

You didn't say if your area was full sun or shade - most of my railroad related gardening is in the shade. There are very few shade loving ground covers for a colder climate (USDA Zone 3-4). Among the successful ground covers are periwinkle, lamium, and snow on the mountain. I also like bugleweed (ajuga) though it has a rather fearful reputation in warmer climates as being totally invasive. The cold tends to keep it well checked. Native mosses in your area will also do quite well in the shade if adequate moisture is available.

In the sunshine, most ground covers are invasive so beware. Sedums and tymes are the usual choices though many have good success with scotch or irish moss. I have had no luck with the last two as the deep winter cold here seems to kill them.

Pictures and details of all these are available via Wikipedia. Checking for recommendations at your local nursery is also helpful.

Regards ... Doug
 

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On the MM&G I have found that both Sedum and Tyme do a good job of ground cover. I also have lots of Cactus, which like Sedum, spread like wild fire. I live in Northern Ohio and also get lots of snow.

The nice thing about Sedum is that it's very easy to pull out. If you have too much, just a quick yank and it comes out so you can replant in another area.





Regards,
Mark
 

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Pete, what is a good choice for a ground cover that grows low to the ground and has small leaves? What I want is something that will resemble grass. This will be grown in Northern California. We very seldom have any freezing and there will be ample sun during the growing season.
 

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Hi, Bill

“Grassâ€� is a pretty broad term, but if you’re modeling in G-scale, the short answer is Creeping Thyme. Up close it doesn’t look anything like grass, but it spreads out in a dense mat, grows fairly quickly and resembles a grassy patch from a distance. You will get flowers â€" I do, at least, in the Spring, but they don’t last long, and while they do last, they are quite nice to look at.

Runners up…

Elfin thyme â€" smaller leaves but comparatively sloooooow grower
Wooly thyme â€" interesting plant but looks more like ground hugging vines
Moss sandwort (Irish) â€" good for 7/8ths but a bit tall for g-scale, and too uniformly green
Dianthus â€" great for representing tall wild grass in 7/8ths but in G scale it could get 12 feet high
Scotch moss â€" looks too much like, well, scotch moss (and too recognizable as such)

Ramblings…

One of the strange things about garden railroading is that there is no go-to plant when you want to represent something as ubiquitous as “grass�. To me, it’s more useful to think in terms of, how do I represent a meadow? In my experience, this can be done by mixing a variety of the above groundcovers (and others). The clincher comes when you toss in other small perennials which do an amazing job of standing in for shrubs, bushes and thickets. That’s when it all comes together.

I am in zone 6.
 

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Thanks Pete. I guess that by saying grass, I meant something like a meadow. It looks like I am in zone 9.
 

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In that case, I recommend a mix of the above, plus...

This is mostly Doone Valley with Rupture Wort and Sedum in amongst.



This is Creeping Thyme

 

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Try creeping phlox. the white grows in a low mound, the red is a little higher link pic of mine
 
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