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Got Shade? Native Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes for Landscaping
Got Shade? Native Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes for Landscaping
Published by Porterbrook
06-09-2009
Default Got Shade? Native Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes for Landscaping

GOT SHADE? NATIVES GRASSES, SEDGES, AND RUSHES FOR LANDSCAPING

By
Frank W. Porter
Porterbrook Native Plants


Many home landscapes contain partially, if not predominantly, shaded areas. In the past, gardeners have used Hostas and other non-native plants to fill these areas; or, they have actually removed all of the existing vegetation to create an environment more conducive to either sun-loving bedding plants or exotic perennials from local garden centers. Native grasses, sedges and rushes offer an entirely different approach to utilizing these naturally shaded areas. By creating a garden that replicates natural habitats and by selecting a variety of native species that are well adapted to shaded areas, the home gardener can create a landscape that will afford a variety of blooms and foliage that will highlight the garden from early spring through winter. By following some simple procedures, these gardens will require little or no irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides.


A wave of change is flowing through our gardens and landscapes. Garden designers and landscape architectures are increasingly becoming aware of the value and importance of native grasses, sedges and rushes. One factor that has deterred gardeners and landscapers from using native plants is the fear that they are invasive and therefore unmanageable. Many of our native grasses, sedges and rushes are truly garden-worthy. It is important to understand that being ornate is not the sole quality of these plants. They have a fundamental beauty and purpose in the landscape.


Native plants offer a variety of ways to be used in the garden and landscape. Gardening with native grasses, sedges and rushes allow us to explore and better understand the depth of creating a natural landscape. Grasses are the blanket of much of the natural world. They can reflect its every mood. Although many perceive they lack the bright colors of wildflowers, the subtleties of their shape, form and texture create a lasting beauty that spans the seasons. A natural lawn can pulse with life in a way that heightens the senses and yet soothes the soul. It also offers an ecologically sound habitat for wildlife that further enriches the gardening experience.


Native grasses also have an ease of cultivation. Often, they require little more than good soil. There are species that will thrive in full sun, dry shade, moist shade, and wet meadows and bogs. Like any garden plant, they demand only timely weeding and annual grooming. These naturalized lawns require only the simplest means to maintain. In many instances, they will never need mowing. Potential garden spaces on your property should never be forced into submission as manicured lawns.


In the early 1950s, ornamental and native grasses were virtually unused in American gardens. As interest gradually increased in ornamental grasses, plant hunters sought new species from remote corners of the globe. Botanists attempted to raise and introduce new varieties, especially those exhibiting variegated foliage. While the search worldwide for new and unusual species of ornamental grasses continues to this day, the recognition of the beauty and usefulness of our native grasses, sedges and rushes in the cultural landscape has lagged woefully behind.


Mounding forms of grasses are of the most importance to us, because they tend to be non-aggressive. Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, and Indian Grass transform a lightly shaded area into an inviting sanctuary especially when intermingled with shade-loving wildflowers.
Sedges are close botanical cousins of the grasses. Sedges comprise approximately 115 genera and frequently are found in temperate and arctic regions. Sedges often grow in damp or waterlogged areas, but they also inhabit dry woodlands. Most sedge species are perennial, and many are evergreen offering a bright contrast to a snow-covered yard..


The Rush family (Junceae) is a small one. There are approximately 400 species worldwide. Most of the rushes grow in damp cool areas. In their flower structure, they are more like lilies than grasses. Species of Juncus brighten water features and readily adapt to wet areas where other plants cannot grow.


With the proper choice of species, a gardener can recreate the character of the native sods that existed before the introduction of the modern, suburban, manicured lawn and utilize shaded areas in new and exciting ways.



This article was first published by the Marietta Register
  #1  
By Dirty Knees on 06-12-2009, 12:54 PM
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What would buy for a shady area between your garage and a neighbor's garage that isn't a grass where there's like only 8' between the two by 20' long?
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  #2  
By joepyeweed on 06-12-2009, 01:08 PM
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I've got tons of shade. I've not had much success with the sedges that I've tried.

I tried Fox sedge (carex conjuncta) my dogs ate it like candy. There are a few wisps left in my rain garden, but the dogs find it and love it.

I've also tried Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) along a fence line and it didn't do much. In fact, I'm not sure its even still there.

For your tough spot between garages, I'd probably try Ostrich Ferns.
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  #3  
By Dirty Knees on 06-12-2009, 01:25 PM
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I was wishing for anything with flowers. There used to be english ivy and gravel inbetween the garages.
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  #4  
By Porterbrook on 06-12-2009, 01:29 PM
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Shady areas are always tricky. The secret is to make sure that the soil between the two garages has been amended with good organic material. I always use a combination of shredded leaves and decayed woodchips. After integrating this into the soil, you need to decide what type of a planting you are wanting to achieve. I would take this opportunity to create a dry, shade garden. You can use the following species planted on two foot centers:

Anemone virginiana, Silene stellata, Chrysogonum virginianum, Coreopsis auriculata, Zizia aptera, Coreopsis verticillata, Aquilegia canadensis, Eupatorium rugosum, and Silene caroliniana. If you want to use some native grasses, try Elymus canadensis and Elymus hystrix.

Good luck
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  #5  
By Dirty Knees on 06-16-2009, 02:32 PM
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You gave me exactly what I needed. Tks. Can you experts tell me which one of those two grasses is the shortest?
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  #6  
By Porterbrook on 06-16-2009, 02:56 PM
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The two Elymus species are the same height. The difference is in the shape of the inflorescence. You will enjoy both of them, especially if you incorporate the wildflowers I listed for you. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Take care,
Frank
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  #7  
By Dirty Knees on 06-16-2009, 05:20 PM
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I can use one or both. Tks again.
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  #8  
By gbreadman on 07-11-2009, 12:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joepyeweed View Post
I've also tried Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) along a fence line and it didn't do much. In fact, I'm not sure its even still there.
He just wanted to help...(borrowed from other thread)
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  #9  
By gbreadman on 07-11-2009, 12:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Porterbrook View Post
Shady areas are always tricky. The secret is to make sure that the soil between the two garages has been amended with good organic material. I always use a combination of shredded leaves and decayed woodchips. After integrating this into the soil, you need to decide what type of a planting you are wanting to achieve.

If all else fails, unleash the virginia creeper!
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