Jim Hillibish: It’s hard not to love jenny

Jim Hillibish

I love my jenny. She’s beautiful, loyal, always fascinating -- everything you’d ask for in a best friend, except she’s a ground cover, hence the lower-case “j.”

You’re thinking, right, another green-spreading plant. They get a little boring, don’t they?

Creeping jenny’s more than that, perhaps the most surprising of all covers, an A-No. 1. recommendation. that will solve your shade problems and even thrive in full sun.

I planted mine last summer in a bare spot in our front garden. This one little plant today is 5 feet wide, a swath of fluorescent yellow that sends walkers to my front door wondering “what’s that?”

I enjoy relating her past, especially to kids.

Three hundred years ago, she was grown as an herb for boiling in water and honey, a soothing tea for children suffering whooping cough. In England, they call it “chinne cough.” Chinne morphed into jenny as she arrived on our shores.

I coaxed her with plenty of water and a layer of compost. She’s responded with amazing growth.

Her other name in England is the twopence, for her coin-shaped leaves. This places her in the moneywort species.

She sends long runners creeping from the center in all directions, growing inches overnight and mounding to 4 inches deep.

The surprise is she stays brilliant yellow all season, reverting to an evergreen come fall, one of the few ground covers offering season-long brilliance.

Her cultivation is simple. Find a space in partial shade to full sun with plenty of room to spread. Prep the soil with compost or manure. Keep her moist, and watch her expand.

The more sun she gets, the brighter her color, but she’s pretty even in her bright-green mode in partial shade.

Every two years, you may divide her rootball. Indeed, one plant eventually will fill a large space.

She’s well-behaved. I planted her in front of our spirea bushes, which are water and nutrient hungry. No problem.

She has no predators. Creatures and Japanese beetles ignore her tender shoots.

Being an English plant, she’s accustomed to moderate winters. Without protection, she’s hardy here to minus five degrees. Mulching her with ground leaves before the hard freeze is a must and will keep her safe.

Jenny does try to spread into the grass. Mowing will keep her under control.

I cannot say enough about her. If you’re looking for a plant to love, she can be your best friend, rewarding your care with an eye-stopping show.