small bushes or ground cover for bad soil

Is there a plant or small bush that can be used in areas where the soil is terrible?
I have a section of ground around my patio right over the septic tank that has terrible fill dirt soil, lots of rocks, and one part gets full sun and another shade from a big Doug Fir. So I'm looking for something that doesn't have huge roots, and will survive in the Seattle Area. I was looking at Periwinkle, but that is a bit too aggressive for me - I don't need any more invasive species in my yard. I've also ruled out Ivy due to the habit of vermin using it as a home.
Just something leafy and maybe flowers.
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Pachysandra will thrive in some truly ugly soil and situations. In my previous home, it lived in a spot where chunks of ice the size of shoe boxes fell on it all winter, and it was roasted and dry all summer. The plants just laughed at this treatment. However, you have absolutely no excuse for not buying a bag of composted manure and mixing it into your soil. While you're on your knees, you may as well sift out as many rocks as you can.
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Well, actually now that you mention it I'm just now on my way to the store to pick up a mattock. I was about to put up some borders and noticed that about 1/2" penetration was about all I could get out of my shovel. I think its time to start hacking away at my yard. So yes I guess the soil will be much improved - but my basic need remains. Something that is tough, self-maintaining, and not a host to vermin like ivy.
I have a patch of Hen and Chicks in my front yard, the only plant I've ever seen that crowds out rabbit brush and bermuda grass. But I think this particular spot is too shady for them.
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Pachysandra. They don't HAVE to have the soil enriched, but it's silly not to, considering how cheap composted manure is. These plants don't have very deep roots, either. As far as vermin, any ground cover that provides a hiding place will provide shelter for vermin. But, if you need a ground cover, what choice do you have?
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the knowledge to define it well enough.
I took a gander at the Pach stuff, I'm just not sure. I notice that it's related to boxwood, something that did not survive planting in that location - too much full sun I think. I'm not slamming your suggestion, just pondering.
I may just go ahead and put a boatload of lavender there. I really like that stuff and it seems to thrive in the sun.
As to the mattock, I didn't realize they were so cheap, had I known that I would have gotten one sooner. Oh well, off to break soil.
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Distantly related to boxwood. It'll do fine. If pachysandra won't grow there, nothing will except nasty weeds.
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If lavender (or other choices like thyme, creeping thyme, etc) will grow, then you probably have many choices. I was assuming the spot was too shady and the soil too poor for that (and the "does not harbor vermin" criterion I was also having trouble with, as I would think that "vermin" - or "wildlife" according to one's perspective - would be happy with a fairly wide variety of vegetation, potentially).
If Pachysandra doesn't excite you, it is unlikely to be your only choice, especially if you do end up doing at least a bit of soil improvement.
I'd consider one plant for the sunny half and something different for the shady half. Especially if whatever you try first only thrives on one side or the other.
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As to the vermin thing. I did volunteer work at the University doing landscaping and groundskeeping. We tore out all the ivy and juniper bushes around the dorms - rats had infested the ivy and juniper bushes so the U tore it all out to get rid of their homes. I still vividly remember all the rats fleeing as we moved into the area Bobcat engine gunning. I understand why the rats and mice were there, years of student crap tossed out of windows were feeding them.
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I've had ground covers for over 30 years, and I have never seen a rat. Mice, yes, but they're no problem unless you've exterminated all your cats. Are you in an urban environment where rats are already a problem?
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I was talking to my neighbors, he suggested California poppies. He has some planted in his side yard, they're incredibly hardy and love the full sun. Plus they spead out and take over in horrible conditions.
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Yeah, that's a good idea. I don't know if Seattle is part of their native range, but parts of Washington state are, so if not you are close.
People usually grow them from seed.
As for "horrible conditions", I've even grown them in pots (although they weren't very happy). I don't have any firsthand experience growing them outdoors.
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Well if his sideyard is any indication, they should do fine. Although I wonder if my black thumb will change that.
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so true... look at the bumper crop in Afghanistan.... Ingrid

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after getting my mother thru her back operation brought on, no doubt, by her years of breaking soil with a mattock I am of the "mulch it to death" school.
we had lousy sand in one patch. I invited the area tree trimmers to use this area to dump their mulch. I hooked up a flip flop and had that wetting the mulch down every couple of days. within 1 year 4 feet of mulch had become nice organic soil. wet hardpan can also be amended most easily this way. Ingrid
On Sat, 7 Jul 2007 13:41:51 -0700, "Eigenvector"

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Look into Lamium, or if your climate allows "Brass Buttons"
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