Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carex - A great group of Grasses for the Shade

A number of years ago, I had grass envy. You know, those lovely tall billowy grasses that provide strong vertical form and spectacular interest? Well, I wanted them. Unfortunately I had 10 big beautiful trees - Beech, Pine, Spruce & Maple - and as you might know, you can either have fabulous grass, or you can have big beautiful trees.

So I thought, until I discovered Carex. This is a cold weather grass, and just like my lawn, puts out its growth in early spring. Unlike other grasses, it often is evergreen - a feature that really doesn't count for much when it's covered with a meter of snow, but heck, sometimes it's just nice knowing that it's there.

One of my favourites, introduced to me by Belinda Gallagher of Triffids, is Carex muskingumensis (palm sedge). It is taller than any of my other Carex and has a lovely tropical bambooish look. For me, it grows about 80 cm tall and 60 cm wide. It does self-seed, so weeding is a must. And, it isn't bothered by pests and diseases; is drought tolerant; and strangely enough the bunnies don't appear to fancy it. Providing the snow is shorter than the plant - it holds its shape and would be considered as winter interest. It also combines well with other plants in the perennial border and keeps its green colour throughout the summer.
The only word of caution is to be careful when you cut it back in the spring. Palm sedge sends up shoots just as soon as the soil begins to warm, so if you're not careful, you'll end up cutting off this year's growth!


Bluegrass Gardener said...

Hi, I was wondering if Carex is something that can be found at most nurseries/garden centers? I'm alway looking for plants that do well in the shade.


Barbarapc said...

Yes, absolutely. If the plants aren't shelved in alpha order - do check out the grass or rock garden sections. Sometimes it's called sedge rather than carex. Good luck.

STIHL Man said...

I had the same question. Thank you for the info. :)