Sweet flag or Acorus. Though not actually a grass or sedge, this diminutive grasslike perennial resembles the ornamental grasses enough to be included here. Grown primarily for its foliage, sweet flag grows best in moist, boggy soils in full sun along the coast or part shade elsewhere. If grown in shallow water, plants may produce occasional spathe-type blooms, though these are rare and generally insignificant. The following form upright clumps of narrow, iris-like leaves that grow 6-12” tall and spread slowly by rhizomes. Mass in containers or along walkways or streamsides for a delicate, showy effect. The roots and rhizomes have long been used as a source of perfume, and the foliage emits a fragrant aroma when bruised or crushed. Hardy to 0F. Japan.
‘Ogon’: Golden variegated sweet flag. A low-growing perennial that forms fans of rich golden-yellow, grasslike tufts, ‘Ogon’ makes an excellent container subject or small-scale groundcover. In shady areas usually dominated by different shades of green, the golden foliage adds a delightful twist. Must have at least partial shade in inland gardens. Garden origin.
‘Variegatus’: White-striped Japanese sweet flag. Similar to ‘Ogon’, but with green and creamy-white variegated foliage. Plants grow best in light to deep shade and are an outstanding choice for containers on shady patios. Garden origin.
Anemanthele lessoniana (formerly Stipa arundinacea)
New Zealand wind grass. A handsome evergreen grass that features clumping stems to 4’ tall with short, slowly creeping rhizomes. The dark green leaves become streaked with orange-bronze or pale brown when stressed, and the purple tinged flower heads form in summer on feathery stems. Tolerant of full sun, but richer and more reliable with some shade, this species is best in rich soil that does not dry out. Provide regular garden water. Hardy to 10F. New Zealand.
Austrostipa ramosissima (formerly Stipa ramosissima)
Pillar of smoke or Australian plume grass. A handome bamboo-like grass, this tough Australian native grows in the beds alongside our parking lot and draws praise from many visitors. Tall, thick canes to 6’ tall bearing medium-green, narrow leaves are topped nearly year round by feathery plumes of flowers. These plumes open a pale green, then fade to cream and finally ash-gray, creating the illusion of a “pillar of smoke”. Plant in full sun or part shade in any well-drained soil and provide moderate to occasional water. A striking selection well-suited to coastal or inland gardens. Hardy to 20F. Australia.
Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’
Hedge bamboo. This striking variegated bamboo makes an excellent screen in partly shaded locations. With regular water a healthy plant can reach 30’ tall in a 6’ wide stand. Noted for its yellow-orange striped canes and pinkish new growth, ‘Alphonse Karr’ seems to be slightly more cold tolerant than other Bambusas. Best in moist, rich soils. Hardy to 25F. Southern China.
Baumea rubignosa ‘Variegata’
Variegated water chestnut. Dramatic water-loving perennial with a strong
vertical habit to 18” and narrow, sword-shaped, dark green blades marked with a golden-yellow marginal stripe. Plants form dense basal clumps and spread into healthy colonies under ideal conditions. Excellent in water gardens or boggy situations with full sun. The golden margins fade somewhat in the shade and the habit becomes less strongly vertical, but the plant still provides a graceful element. Hardy to 20F. Central and South America.
Beardgrass or Cane bluestem. A vigorous native species to 4’ tall with a sprawling, somewhat floppy habit and intriguing flower spikes that look, when backlit, like small, glowing candles. The silky flowers emerge cream-colored from May through October, then become a glowing silver before shattering. In fall, the blue-green stems and leaves blush shades of red or orange, especially in colder climates. Enchanting in meadow plantings and coastal gardens, this rugged grass is especially useful massed in drifts with Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’. Place in full sun with well-drained soil, and water occasionally once established. Fully deciduous in cold climates and semi-deciduous in coastal Mediterranean climates, it is possibly invasive in some sites. Cut back once a year for a more cultivated appearance. Hardy to 0F. California, Southwestern North America.
Feather reed grass. A handsome genus of grasses with a number of strong ornamental species. Moderately tall, usually glabrous, robust grasses suited to moist places in the garden, with flat or rolled leaves and an open panicle which is usually narrow and spike-like. Found naturally in bogs and marshlands, the reed grasses will thrive in fertile, moist, heavy soils. The plume-like inflorescence of some selections is valued for dried flower arrangements. Hardy to 0F. Temperate Northern Hemisphere.
x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’: Foerster’s feather reed grass. Features showy, narrow brown flower heads, 4-6’ high from mid to late summer that bleach to a straw color and stand firmly without support or damage through the winter. In colder climates plants bloom earlier and grow more compact. Prefers moist, rich soil and full sun, and tolerant of heavy soils and heat with adequate moisture. Occurs naturally in meadows and open woods. Hardy to below 0F. Eurasia.
x acutiflora ‘Overdam’: Overdam feather reed grass. Strong columns of freshly striped, green and white variegated blades to 3’. The narrow arching mounds bear feathery plumes to 5’ tall, colored first pink, and then golden as the season progresses. Provide full sun or part shade in hotter climates with moderate water in most soils. Hardy to 0F. Garden origin.
foliosa: Cape Mendocino reed grass. Blue-gray densely clustered foliage with streaks of purple, forming low mounds to 2’ wide. Dense purple panicles appear in spring, turn a tawny beige in summer, and are held for months. Best with some summer irrigation, perhaps moderately if in full sun, and only occasionally in partial shade. Useful in coastal gardens but not recommended for hot, interior climates. Hardy to 10F. Endangered species from coastal Humboldt County, California.
nutkaensis: Pacific reed grass. A cool-season grass hailing from the North Coast of California and from as far away as Alaska, this is a moisture-loving species that grows 2-3’ tall with showy flower spikes held 1-2’ above the foliage. These flower spikes unfurl in April and May with a purplish cast and fade with age to an eye-catching flaxen color. Highly adaptable, Pacific reed grass shows tolerance for many conditions including heavy or rocky soils, salt spray, wind and even summer drought. We have used this species in shady areas under coast live oaks and Catalina ironwoods where it has thrived. Provide full sun along the coast or part shade inland. Plants may develop rust during wet summer weather, but will grow out of it the following season. Hardy to 5F. California.
Sedge. Tufted, grasslike perennials grown for their foliage, which varies greatly among the species. All feature grasslike, evergreen leaves in a range of lengths and widths, and inconspicuous flowers. Though often found in shady habitats along ponds or streams, many have a surprisingly wide tolerance and are useful in dry situations. Effective as fillers and groundcovers, some are even suitable for meadows or lawns. Provide full sun along the coast and part shade elsewhere, and regular to moderate water. Most are hardy to at least 15F. Cosmopolitan, particularly temperate and Arctic regions.
albula: Often referred to incorrectly as Carex comans ‘Frosty Curls’, this plant greatly resembles the New Zealand hair sedges, but is indeed a separate species. Distinguished by its pale green, almost white coloration and by the curled tips of the hair-like foliage, Carex albula makes a delightful companion in containers with Fuchsia magellanica ‘Versicolor’. New Zealand.
berggrenii: A small, distinctive sedge to 4” high with flat, narrow leaves topped by blunt tips. Foliage color is variable in the species, ranging from green to gray to copper-red. The clonal selection we grow has rich copper-brown foliage and an extremely diminutive habit. Plants spread slowly by rhizomes to 2’ wide. An appealing sedge for rock gardens or for the front of a moist border, this one is best with regular water in full sun or shade. Occurs in bog conditions in the wild. Hardy to 5F. New Zealand.
buchananii: Leather leaf sedge. A clumping perennial with fine coppery red-brown foliage to 2’ tall. Plants exhibit a strong, vertical form when young, then arch downward with age and possess distinctly curled leaf tips and inconspicuous flowers. Useful in water gardens, rock gardens, and woodlands, the leather leaf sedge grows in full sun along the coast, but requires some shade inland. Best in well-drained soils with regular water, though established plants are often marginally drought tolerant. Hardy to 0F. New Zealand.
caryophyllea ‘The Beatles’: Mop-headed sedge. This whimsical sedge has become a favorite in our garden, where it acts as a dense, fine-textured, evergreen groundcover to 8” high. The rich green foliage forms rounded mounds (much like the hair cuts of those famous British invaders) that provide lush fill between stepping stones, along paths and in the foreground of perennial or grass borders. Healthy plants tolerate light foot traffic and may be used as a lawn substitute in small areas. One of the best low-growing sedges, this one is ideal for moist, rich soils in partial shade. Plants in our garden have remained bright green with only occasional water. Hardy to 0F. Garden origin.
comans: New Zealand hair sedge. Fine-textured, clumping sedge with whitish-green, hair-like leaves that form dense tufts most commonly to 12”, but up to 3’ in ideal conditions. The rumpled looking foliage distinguishes this sedge from others and makes it a fine single specimen in containers. Best in moist, well-drained soils, plants are equally suited to full sun or partial shade. New Zealand hair sedge naturalizes in many settings, although not invasively in our experience. Plants occur naturally alongside streambeds, where their weeping habit nicely complements moving water. Hardy to 0F. New Zealand.
comans ‘Red’: Similar when young in color and shape to Carex buchananii, but easily distinguished with time by its more trailing, decumbent habit. Evergreen, this is a handsome sedge to combine with silver-leafed plants such as Artemisia or Achillea.
coriacea: A coarser sedge than most others we grow, this species has a wider leaf blade than either Carex solandri, secta or testacea, all of which it resembles somewhat in foliar color. The chartreuse leaves are marked clearly by a lighter green midvein adding to its character. Mature plants reach 2-3’ tall and spread slowly by rhizomes. Tolerant of damp soils and coastal conditions. Hardy to 15F. New Zealand.
dipsacea: An upright clumper 28-30” tall with narrow, light green foliage that is sometimes tipped in bronzy tones. This species prefers damp soils and grows best in sun or part shade. Hardy to 20F. New Zealand.
dissita: Another broad-leafed species, this Carex resembles Carex testacea in color but with a wider, ribbed leaf tipped in orange or bronze tones. Showy black seedheads are held among the foliage that arches gently at the tips. Plants will tolerate full sun in moist soils, but perform best in shade or part shade. A good choice for the understory of trees. Hardy to 0F. New Zealand.
divulsa: Berkeley sedge. A rich green, mounding sedge 12-18” tall, Berkeley sedge creates a lush meadow appearance when massed beneath trees or large shrubs. Found naturally along streams in Northern California, it combines nicely with native ferns and perennials like Polystichum munitum and Heuchera maxima. Remarkably tough once established, this sedge tolerates traffic, some drought, full sun and even boggy soils; it’s an excellent choice for children’s play areas or dog runs. Plants grown in shade have a more refined appearance. Evergreen in mild climates to 10F. Northern California.
dolichostachya ‘Kaga-nishiki’: A neat and tidy Japanese selection to 12” with narrow, fine-textured, glossy green leaves, each bordered with a rich golden margin. Plant in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. Combine to nice effect in shaded borders with Geranium ‘Anne Folkard’ or Heuchera ‘Velvet Night’. Hardy to 0F. Japan.
elegantissima ‘Variegata’: Golden-edged sedge. Another clumping sedge, this one with exceptionally fine olive-green leaves to 2’ long forms a dense mound 18-24” tall. The arching blades are outlined with golden-yellow and sparkle delightfully when backlit by the late afternoon sun. Small, inconspicuous flowers bloom on slender stems. Plant in full or part shade, in moist, well-drained soils. Plants will tolerate moderate sun in coastal gardens. Used massed beneath sycamores and oaks in combination with ferns and other shade-loving perennials. Hardy to 10F. Asia.
flagellifera: Weeping brown New Zealand sedge. A handsome sedge with a distinctive form, the weeping brown sedge forms flowing, shaggy mounds of fine-textured, coppery-brown foliage to 2’ tall. The unusual color is useful as a singular accent or in a sweeping mass. Best in moist, well-drained soils in light shade, though plants will tolerate full sun along the coast. Provide a “haircut” periodically by gathering the hair-like foliage into a bunch and trimming off a few inches from the raggedy tips. A delightful plant offering elegance and character to the California garden. Hardy to 0F. New Zealand.
glauca (syn. Carex flacca): Blue sedge. This low-growing, blue-green sedge is perhaps one the best spreading forms we grow, slowly spreading by rhizomes to form dense patches of finely textured groundcover. Native to Europe, blue sedge grows best in full sun with moderate water; it will tolerate a wide range of soils. Plants from seed are highly variable and can range in size from 6-24” tall, though withholding water will keep plants more compact. Hardy below 0F. Europe.
morrowii ‘Fisher’s Form’: A distinctive form of Carex morrowii that we first encountered two years ago while visiting friends in England. Broad, stiff leaves to 18” marked with conspicuous cream-colored margins rise from rigid rosettes. “A stunning selection,” said one English nurseryman. Plant in full sun in coastal gardens, or in part to full shade inland with moderate water. Hardy to 0F. Garden origin.
morrowii ‘Ice Dance’: The fine and graceful grasslike blades of this slowly rhizomatous, clumping sedge are lined with a narrow cream-colored margin that contrasts nicely against ferns and green-leafed Heucheras. Use in a wide range of soil types with regular garden water. The small drift in our garden has proven remarkably durable and tolerant of dry conditions. Plants grow to 12” tall and are pleasantly widespread, though not invasive.
pansa: California meadow sedge. A native sedge well suited for use in natural garden meadows or in traditional gardens in lieu of lawn grass. Plants form dense colonies of rich green foliage that grows to no more than 6” tall in sun or shade. In his Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, Rick Darke aptly describes meadow sedge as having a “tousled appearance”, and the narrow blades do indeed curl somewhat at the tips. Tolerant of a wide range of conditions and activities, meadow sedge will take occasional mowing, moderate traffic, tree root competition, drought and heavy soil. For optimal growth plant in well-drained soils with regular to moderate water in full sun. Plants are summer dormant without supplemental watering. Hardy to 10F. California to Washington.
phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’: ‘Sparkler’ sedge. This striking variegated sedge originated as a sport off the solid green species and quickly surpassed its parent in popularity. The long slender leaves held in virtual whorls are broadly lined with creamy-white margins and give the plant its distinctive character. This handsome foliage forms on thick bamboo-like stalks to 2’ tall and brightens partly shaded corners through much of the year, until cold winter temperatures knock it down for the season. Plant in rich soil in part shade or full sun along the coast and provide regular water. Hardy to 10F. Japan.
pilulifera ‘Tinney’s Princess’ This delicate clumping sedge resembles an Acorus in the fineness of the foliage, but has proven to be a much more robust plant. The mostly cream-colored blades are lined by a narrow deep green margin and the foliage has a somewhat moppy effect. Plant in part shade or full sun along the coast and provide regular water. With proper care this charmer will reach 8-12” tall and up to 2’ wide. Spreads slowly by rhizomes. Hardy to 5F. Europe.
praegracilis: Low, spreading native species that is effective as a lawn substitute or ground cover. Extremely durable, it has withstood the foot traffic of children using the swing set in our garden. The thin, wiry leaves are a rich, dark green and rise above the spreading rhizomes to 12”. Consider large drifts for erosion control or for a meadow mixed with other native species. Assertive in moist soils and can be kept lower with mowing. Full sun or part shade with moderate to occasional water. Hardy to 10F. California. Lawn Replacement Info Card
A sedge by another name....is confusing - Article published by Pacific Horticulture comparing the often confused Carex praegracilis and C. pansa.
secta: A large, weeping sedge to 4’ tall with olive green narrow foliage that bears orange or bronze colored highlights. This species often grows alongside waterways where its fine foliage spills down to float on the water’s surface. Plant in shady, moist sites for best results. Hardy to 10F. New Zealand.
senta: A weeping sedge found along waterways of California and noted for its weeping form and showy flowers held well above the foliage. With age the flower clusters deepen to darkest purple or black and stand out dramatically against the rich green foliage. Very tolerant of wet conditions. Use in containers, water gardens or beside streams, pools or ponds. Hardy to 10F.
solandri: New Zealand sedge. Medium-sized sedge to approximately 3 or 4’ with dazzling lime green foliage that glows bronze-orange at the tips. A bold selection that prefers full sun and constant moisture, this is particularly handsome when combined with other grasses like Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ or Muhlenbergia pubescens.
spissa: San Diego sedge. This California native is perhaps one of the showiest native sedges and boasts evergreen clumps of distinctive blue-green foliage to 5’ tall. Plants are somewhat slow to establish, but spread with time by rhizomes in a non-invasive fashion. Chocolate brown flowering spikes appear in spring above the foliage. Plant in full sun or part shade in any moisture-retentive soil; San Diego sedge is particularly reliable along streamsides and waterways. Provide an occasional shearing to remove old duff. Hardy to 10F. Southern California, Baja and Arizona.
subfusca: A spreading native sedge to 18” with rich, dark green foliage and spring-flowering heads that open cream-colored then darken to black-brown as the seed develops. This species tolerates considerable drought while retaining a green character, but much is much richer with summer water. Perhaps the fastest spreading sedge we have encountered, it is especially aggressive in sandy soils; consider yourself forewarned! Useful for erosion control or as an informal turf-like lawn substitute, it can be kept lower with regular mowing. Plant in full sun or part shade in most soils and provide moderate to occasional water. Hardy to 5F. California.
testacea: Orange New Zealand sedge. The distinctive coloring of this mounding sedge makes it a delight in any garden especially when combined with other grasses or broad-leafed perennials. The hair-like olive green foliage takes on a vivid tangerine-colored blush at the tips and glows brilliantly in the sunlight particularly in cold weather. Mature plants grow to 15” tall and grow best in moist, well-drained soils. This sedge tolerates sun or shade, but most gardeners agree that the foliage color is best with at least a half day of sun. In our garden this sedge has reseeded in a pleasing fashion in both sun and shade. Use as an accent, in containers, or along waterways or combine with other boldly colored plants like Phormium ‘Shirazz’ or Salvia ‘Burgundy Bliss’. Hardy to below 0F. New Zealand.
Red tussock grass. For the discriminating gardener who prizes subtlety, he need look no further than Chionchloa rubra. Boasting a most unusual shade of copper, the fine blades of this upright mounding grass dazzle with their understated beauty. Not quite the bold coppery-brown of the red sedges, this grass combines warm tawny shades with just enough dusky blush to give it a distinctive appearance. In summer, large silky inflorescences rise to 5’ to crown this Native Sons favorite. Plant in full sun in well-drained soils and provide moderate water. Hardy to 10F. New Zealand.
A superb member of the Restionaceae family (the Restios) from South Africa, the dark green, reed-like stems rise from a dense basal clump and reach up to 5’ tall. Each stem is banded with chocolate bracts that lighten to a warm golden color before being shed. A strong and durable perennial for full sun or light shade with regular to moderate water, Chondropetalum has also proved to be quite tolerant of boggy or clay soils. Stunning when used in containers. Hardy to 20F. South Africa.
Lemon grass. A clumping grass 2-3’ tall with highly aromatic foliage that has been used for centuries in East Asian cooking. The lemon scent is released when leaves are crushed or bruised and so plants make good container subjects near the kitchen door or along paths and walkways. Not particular to soil type, lemon grass does however require full sun and regular water. Plants will not overwinter in any but the mildest of climates. Hardy to 30F. Asia.
Tufted hair grass, Fairy wand or Tussock grass. A densely tufted, evergreen perennial that forms mounds of darkest green foliage to 2’ tall and 3’ wide. The striking panicles of silky flowers are its most ornamental feature, and these emerge in late spring well above the foliage creating a virtual shimmering cloud in the garden. In areas with little wind or snow, the flowering stalks will remain all winter, catching light and providing interest while dormant perennials store up reserves for spring. Most cultivars in the trade are of European heritage, but a California form exists that is quite tolerant of both aridity and shade. A suitable choice for borders, under native oaks, or on partially shaded moist slopes, tufted hair grass grows best in light shade with rich soil and regular water. Hardy to below 0F. North America, Europe.
‘Northern Lights’: This intriguing new variegated selection from Harlan Hamernik of Bluebird Nursery in Clarkston, Nebraska breaks all the rules for Deschampsias. The narrow leaf blades are banded longitudinally with green and gold, then blush showy pink toward the tips in early spring. A clumping form to 12” or less with an equal spread, this cultivar has not been known to flower. Use with other ornamental grasses in a place where it receives backlighting from late afternoon sun. Provide full sun in coastal gardens and some shade inland with moderate to regular water. Plants may develop rust along the coast during cool, foggy summers, but should recover when sunny weather returns. Hardy to 5F. Garden origin.
‘Schottland’: One of the largest cultivars of Deschampsia to 3’ by 3’ with silky gold flowering spikes to 4’ above the dark green foliage. A remarkable sight in full bloom. Consider massing several plants to make a sassy statement! Plant in full sun or light shade with moderate water in most soils. Hardy to 0F. Garden origin.
‘Susan’s Choice’: Perhaps our favorite Deschampsia here at the nursery, as it is a native selection, ‘Susan’s Choice’ forms tidy mounds of rich green foliage 18-24” tall topped by golden masses of airy panicles held 3’ above the foliage from February to December. Plants are equally stunning in sun or shade, in the ground or in containers, in clay or sandy soil, with regular or moderate water. Truly indispensible for California gardens! Hardy to 0F. California.
flexuosa ‘Aurea’ (syn. flexuosa ‘Tatra Gold’): A cool season tuft-forming selection to 20” tall with bright yellow-green foliage that arches gently at the tips. Bronze-colored flowers are held on slender stalks above the foliage in summer. Plant in partly shaded areas with moist soils for best results. An ideal choice for woodland gardens or shady borders. Hardy to 0F.
From the Restio family, this genus consists of approximately 30 perennial species variable in form if not in culture. The two we grow require full sun and well-drained soil with moderate to regular water. Like most restios, the following are cool-season growers and are only marginally hardy to 20F. South Africa.
capensis: This handsome vertical growing perennial resembles a giant horsetail, and indeed is found naturally alongside streams and in moist seeps. Reaching almost 7’ tall (larger in ideal settings) and forming a dense clump of cylindrical stems ringed with thread-like branches in tight whorls, this large species is well suited to poolside gardens, specimen plantings and oversized containers. Cinnamon-colored papery leaf bracts also line the stems creating additional ornamental interest.
equisetacea: Growing to 5’ tall and bearing golden seed heads, this attractive restio provides a dramatic element for plant lovers. Best in full sun with well-drained soils. Like all the restios, this species is relatively new to the California nursery trade.
Dwarf horsetail or Dwarf scouring rush. The thin, wiry stems of this dwarf cousin to the well-known horsetail, reach 6-8” tall and form dense mats of segmented, dark green stalks. Rush-like, with a unique architectural quality and small club-shaped fruits, this is a good choice for small containers. Rhizomatous by nature, it may need some restraint to keep from becoming invasive, particularly in wet or boggy sites; plants will not spread where water is withheld. Tolerant of windy coastal conditions, moderate shade, and cold, as well as full sun and heat, the dwarf horsetail only needs constant moisture to look its best, and in fact grows well in shallow water. In cool weather plants take on a slight burgundy hue. Hardy to below 0F. Eurasia, Greenland, North America.
Fescue. A large and somewhat confusing genus, due to disagreement among botanists concerning nomenclature and parentage. Nevertheless, cultivars do have some traits in common; they are cool-season grasses and look their best during the cooler months of the year. In the summer, various degrees of dormancy are to be expected from all of the fescues. Flowers, plant height, foliage color and texture vary. Most prefer full sun or partial shade with moderate to occasional water. See individual descriptions for hardiness recommendations. Cosmopolitan.
amethystina ‘Superba’: Blue sheep’s fescue or Tufted fescue. Cool season, evergreen grass with fine-textured, dark bluish-green foliage growing to 12” tall with flower spikes rising 12-18” above foliage. This cultivar possesses a gently weeping habit and springtime flowers colored pink-purple that turn gold as they mature toward summer. In our opinion ‘Superba’ is one of the most reliable of the Festucas, useful as a groundcover, accent plant, or container subject. Requires cool, moist, well-drained soil in full sun, though it is drought tolerant in coastal climates or areas with cool summers. Cut back to roughly 4” each spring to stimulate fresh new growth. Hardy to below 0F. Cosmopolitan.
californica ‘Horse Mountain Green’: California fescue. A clumping bunch grass to 18” with unusually colored foliage bearing a bright, dark green upper leaf surface and a dull gray-green lower surface that gives the stiff leaves an attractive two-toned appearance. Springtime flowers spike to 3’ above this handsome foliage, opening in delicate shades of plum then quickly fading to glowing blonde. Utilize on slopes, among boulders, or scattered under trees or tall shrubs, but allow for summer dormancy when considering placement in highly visible gardens. Plants require full sun along the coast, but perform best with some shade elsewhere. Occasional to moderate water. Hardy to 10F. California.
californica ‘Salmon Creek’: California fescue. Similar to ‘Horse Mountain Green’, but with stiff blue-gray foliage marked by a rich burgundy blush. A Tim Gaston selection from Salmon Creek, this cultivar reseeds freely in our garden. Hardy to 10F.
californica ‘Serpentine Blue’: California fescue. A Roger Raiche selection noted for its intense blue-gray foliage. It was originally found growing on serpentine soils of Pine Mountain in Marin County, California. Hardy to 10F.
capillata: Fine-leafed fescue. A small, clumping species with hairlike foliage and inconspicuous flowers that appear green and later turn buff. The greenest of the smaller fescues, it initially forms a mound to 6” tall but becomes much flatter with age. Suitable for rock gardens, in crevices or between paving stones receiving only occasional foot traffic. Hardy to below 0F. Continental Europe, England.
glauca ‘Boulder Blue’: Blue fescue. A clump-forming, cool season grower with blue-gray foliage and tawny-colored flowers. Mature plants reach 8-12” tall and spread 12-18” wide. Plant in full sun or part shade. Hardy to below 0F.
glauca ‘Elijah Blue’: Blue fescue. The intense silver-blue foliage of this cultivar recommends it for almost any garden, where it will combine handsomely with other silvers, darkest greens and even purples. Plants form tidy mounds to 10” tall and send up silver-blue flower stalks in spring that fade to warmest gold. Provide an annual shearing to maintain a fresh appearance, and replace individual plants every 3-4 years. Hardy to below 0F.
glauca ‘Golden Toupee’: One would hardly recognize this as a blue fescue for the fine, hairlike foliage is by turns dazzling chartreuse or luminous gold depending upon the exposure individual plants receive. Less robust than either ‘Boulder Blue’ or ‘Elijah Blue’, ‘Golden Toupee’ requires some effort to keep happy, but the striking foliage makes it well worth the trouble. Best in partial shade. Hardy to 0F.
idahoensis ‘Siskiyou Blue’: A recent hybrid introduction (perhaps idahoensis x ovina glauca) from the Berkeley Botanic Garden offering luminous blue foliage and a strong, durable habit. At 2’ tall with an equal spread it is larger than most ovina glauca cultivars, and with its vivid icy-blue coloring, it is a bold presence in the garden that is difficult to ignore. It has also proven to be much longer lived than other F. glauca cultivars in our garden. Flowering stems appear in spring holding amber-colored heads 18” above the foliage. Use in mass for a stunning display. Hardy to 0F. Garden origin.
rubra ‘Patrick’s Point’: Creeping red fescue. A handsome selection from Patrick’s Point on the California coast, it bears very fine gray-green leaves in tight, rhizomatous clumps 8-12” tall. This species could be used as a lawn substitute.
Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
Japanese forest grass or Golden variegated hakonechloa. A slowly spreading, deciduous grass with delicate, bamboo-like foliage to 1’ high and 3’ wide. Some at the nursery claim that this is the most ornamental grass we grow. Though the species is solid green, this cultivar possesses brilliant golden foliage streaked with narrow lime-green bands. As if it weren’t already dramatic enough, the foliage turns an intense pink-red in fall before dying down for the winter. Plants grow well in almost full sun near the coast, but require at least partial shade inland and need reasonably well-drained soil with regular water. In deep shade the foliage becomes more chartreuse and less golden, but plants will continue to grow and flower. A choice plant, alone or in masses, as a woodland groundcover or in containers. Not a good selection for heavy soils or dry gardens. Hardy to 0F. Japan.
Blue oat grass. This clumping, evergreen grass grows 2-3’ tall with an equal spread and bears rich blue-silver foliage that delights the eye throughout the year. In spring slender flowering stalks arise bearing delicate nodding flowers that age to a warm wheat color by mid-summer. Though it seldom blooms in mild climates, blue oat grass is a favorite of many gardeners for the foliage alone. Useful as an accent plant in containers, borders, rock gardens, coastal gardens, or even on slopes, this is a plant that performs well in a myriad of settings. Plantings here on the Central Coast have done best with partial shade and moderate water. Hardy to below 0F. Eurasia.
‘Sapphire’: Handsome new cultivar with strong blue foliage to 2’ tall. Much more vigorous than the species.
Knobby club-rush. This clumping, rush-like species forms dark green, leafless cylindrical stems to 3’ tall with tiny clusters of brown flowers appearing at each stem tip. Noted for its resilience to salt spray, and waterlogged or saline soils, this is a good choice for coastal gardens. Plant in full sun in almost any soil and provide regular to moderate water. Hardy to 20F.
Rush. Found naturally along streams or even growing in shallow water, dense clumps of rushes often form thickets of arching, wiry stems with a fountain-like effect. Valuable horticulturally for their architectural form, the following may be planted among stones near streams or ponds, or in containers mixed with water-loving perennials. Though size and foliage color vary by species, all rushes form clusters of flowers at the stem tips that are, for the most part, not particularly showy. A few native species are commonly used in restoration efforts for stabilizing stream banks and providing wildlife habitat. Cultural requirements and hardiness vary by species. Cosmopolitan, though primarily in the temperate zones.
effusus ‘Carman’s Japanese’: A highly ornamental species selected by Ed Carman of Los Gatos, California and noted for its showy, tawny colored flower clusters that form at the tips of the foliage and cause it to bend toward the ground in a most graceful fashion. Truly a lovely sight in containers, or planted along pools and streams. Highly recommended. Hardy to 10F. Japan.
effusus ‘Spiralis’: Corkscrew rush or Spiral rush. An intriguing selection that lives up to its names, this low-growing spreader bears unusual twisted or corkscrew-like foliage that adds a bit of whismy to the most staid and conservative plantings. Because of its tightly coiled stature, plants generally stay beneath 16” tall, but can spread up to 2’ across especially in moist conditions. Plant in water gardens or containers where its unique form may be oggled and admired. Subtle clusters of tawny flowers form at the tips of the slender, dark green foliage. Hardy to 0F. Japan.
effusus var. pacificus ‘Quartz Creek’: Soft rush. Clumping species to 3’ tall with bright lime-green stems and dark chocolate basal sheaths. The fresh foliage color is useful in water gardens or in containers. Slow-spreading, this cultivar will eventually form dense colonies in full sun or light shade with regular water. Hardy to 0F. A Native Sons selection from Southern Oregon.
inflexus ‘Afro’: Like Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’, ‘Afro’ has a twisted and coiled form that makes it a conversation piece in any garden. However, as a Juncus inflexus selection ‘Afro’ possesses thicker, gray-green foliage and a more robust, drought tolerant nature. Plant in moist soils or shallow water in full sun. Hardy to 0F.
patens ‘Carman’s Gray’: California gray rush. A strong gray-green or gray-blue selection of our native rush selected by Ed Carman of Los Gatos. Plants grow to 2’ with a stiff, vertical habit and display small clusters of dark brown flowers at the cylindrical leaf tips in late spring and summer. More heat and drought tolerant than the Juncus effusus selections, this cultivar is well suited to gardens throughout California. Hardy to 0F. Baja California north into Oregon.
patens ‘Elk Blue’: A striking cultivar with exceptional blue foliage and a vigorous habit. Dark chocolate flowers appear at the tips of the foliage through summer and fall. In our experience plants are shorter than the type but spread over time. Plant alongside ponds and streams or in containers where its vertical form and cool color can be appreciated. A San Marcos Growers introduction. Hardy to 0F.
Leymus (formerly Elymus)
Wild rye. A genus of approximately 40 grass species hailing primarily from the northern temperate regions of the world and providing several species of particular ornamental interest. The following are well-suited to California gardens and require full sun in well-drained soil with moderate to occasional water. All have a spreading, rhizomatous nature, but some type of root barrier can be used to control the spread. We have planted ‘Canyon Prince’ in a 15 gallon nursery container with the bottom cut out to prevent lateral movement. Hardiness varies. Northern temperate zones.
arenarius ‘Findhorn’: A compact, shorter growing variety than the species reaching 2-3’ with bold blue-green foliage. Useful in almost any soil, this selection tolerates drought, heat, summer humidity, light shade and salt. Provide an annual hard trimming after summer flowering to encourage a flush of vigorous new growth. Spreads aggressively. Hardy to below 0F. Europe.
condensatus: Giant wild rye or Lyme grass. The stiff steel-blue blades of this native ornamental grow up to 6’ tall and often turn a brilliant golden color with the first hard frost. Powdery blue flowering plumes appear in spring above the foliage and fade to tawny beige with age. Tolerant of a wide range of conditions including aridity, drought, poor or clay soils, part shade and seasonal wetness, giant wild rye is a strong contender for any garden. Like most members of the genus, this species is an aggressive spreader and should be contained in the small garden. Hardy to 10F. Coastal ranges from Baja California north and Channel Islands.
condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’: ‘Canyon Prince’ wild rye. Similar to the species, but with intense blue-gray foliage, this popular selection was made on Prince Islet off of San Miguel Island by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Growing to only 3’ it is perhaps better suited for smaller gardens, though it still possesses the aggressive spreading nature of the species. It is also less free-flowering than the species but just as tolerant of a wide range of conditions.
Coast range melic. A loose, fountain-like bunchgrass with bright green leaves and arching flowering stems that rise above the foliage in spring. In flower plants reach 2-3’ tall with an equal spread. Plant in full sun or light shade in reasonably well-drained soils with occasional water. Plants will exhibit summer dormancy in dry gardens, but will quickly green up with the fall rains. Use in meadows, grassy borders and natural gardens. Hardy to 15F. Central and Southern California.
Eulalia grass or Japanese silver grass. A graceful warm season grass to 6’ tall with elegant flower plumes appearing from mid-summer to late fall, many consider this species and its cultivars to be the showiest of all the grasses. Fall foliage color varies by cultivar, though most are completely dormant by December, their winter foliage adding seasonal interest and a musical rustle in the wind. Cut back whole plants to the ground just as the new growth begins to appear in spring and prepare for the glorious display of summer flowers held in tassel-like plumes above the foliage. Most sources recommend full sun or light shade with regular garden water though we have found a number of cultivars to be surprisingly drought tolerant. Plants are typically much smaller (to perhaps 3 or 4’) with restricted water. Hardy to 0F or below. China and Japan.
‘Adagio’: A staff favorite at Native Sons with a compact habit to 4’ tall and silvery-green foliage. Summertime flowers initially blush pink, then fade to a creamy silver-white and are followed by the golden fall foliage that slowly fades to khaki, then rattles and hums in the winter wind. Hardy 10F.
‘Cosmopolitan’: A handsome cultivar with broad, boldly white-striped foliage in clumps to 8’ tall. Silver-white flowers rise to 2’ above the foliage in late summer, fading to almond in the fall. One of the best of the variegated forms, it is also shade tolerant and maintains a strong upright habit. This is the last of the Miscanthus in our garden to turn, holding its variegated foliage often until Christmas.
‘Gracillimus’: Maiden grass. One of the oldest Miscanthus cultivars, this one posseses narrow, finely textured leaves colored silver by a band of silver-cream variegation along the midrib. Plants rise early from winter dormancy to 5’ tall and form graceful, rounded mounds. The showy flowers open copper-rust in late summer or early fall, then quickly fade to silver and persist through winter. The handsome fall foliage is decorated with golden-orange tones. A strong selection.
‘Little Kitten’: A compact, narrow leafed variety to 3’ tall with rich green leaves and silver-white infrequent flowers. Excellent in smaller gardens and a favorite here planted with dawn redwood.
‘Morning Light’: ‘Morning Light’ Japanese silver grass. The fine-textured leaves of this elegant, varigated selection appear silvery at a distance due to the narrow bands of clear white along the leaf margins. The upright, arching foliage grows to 4 or 5’ tall with a rounded habit similar to ‘Gracillimus’. Silky flowers with a reddish tint are held above the foliage in fall.
‘Variegatus’: Variegated Japanese silver grass. An older cultivar, with garden use dating back to the early 1900’s. The wide leaves of this much used selection are white-striped in loose, flopping clumps 4-6’ tall and are accented by silvery flowers rising 2’ above the leaf blades in August and September. Mature plants often require staking, as will plants grown in heavy shade.
‘Yaku Jima’: ‘Yaku Jima’ Japanese silver grass. Used as a catch-all name for any number of compact, narrow leafed plants, ‘Yaku Jima’ describes a a small plant that is generally less than 4 or 5’ tall. Selected from the island of the same name in Japan, plants of this name carry silvery-white blossoms and have a compact, rounded habit. A good choice for small gardens.
tranmorrisonensis: Evergreen miscanthus or Formosa maiden grass. Native to the mountain slopes of Taiwan, this Miscanthus species is similar to M. sinensis, but different enough to warrant the interest of gardeners everywhere. Typically growing to 3’ tall and bearing flaxen-colored flowers on slender stems throughout the summer and fall, this fine-textured beauty remains evergreen in Southern California. In colder areas, plants will remain green until December before going dormant for the coldest months of the year. Provide an annual shearing to encourage vigor.
Muhly grass. Though horticulturists are just beginning to catch on to these grasses, at least one species of the genus was utilized widely by the Yokuts and Miwok Indians of California long before the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent. Stephen Edwards writes in Ten Splendid Grasses, “There is evidence that the Chuckchansi Yokuts Indians of the Yosemite region occasionally set big bunches ablaze to stimulate vigorous regrowth and to enlarge colonies, their ultimate object being to get first-class culms for the foundation coils of their baskets. Muhlenbergia rigens was widely used in coiled basketry.” Wide ranging in size, these tufted or rhizomatous plants possess simple or multi-branched culms, thread-like leaves and open panicles. Most are heat and drought tolerant requiring full sun and moderate to occasional water. Use the following species in meadows, ornamental grass borders, native gardens, slopes, and tough sites like parking lot medians. Hardy to 10F or less. Primarily from Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
capillaris: Hairy awn muhly. A clumping, deciduous grass with masses of violet-pink, airy flowers that often obscure the blue-green foliage in a purple haze from summer to early fall. Useful as a border specimen, or massed in large groups, this species is especially suitable for coastal gardens in sandy soils. Plants will tolerate partial shade and dry conditions, though flower production is much stronger in full sun and plants often look best with moderate summer water. Eastern United States to Texas and into Mexico.
dumosa: Bamboo muhly. Grossly underplanted in our opinion, this handsome muhly forms delicate thickets of fine-textured foliage and is strongly reminiscent of bamboo. The leaves and flower clusters are held on slender, woody stems to 6’ and possess a graceful, billowing habit. Useful as an accent, in containers or as a feathery screen between perennial beds, bamboo muhly grows best in well-drained, fertile soil. Plants are surprisingly heat and drought tolerant. Southern Arizona, Northern Mexico.
filipes: Purple muhly. Similar in appearance and culture to M. capillaris, the purple muhly is distinguished by its more robust blooms held over a longer period. Eastern United States to Texas and into Mexico.
pubescens: Soft blue Mexican muhly. A remarkably beautiful mounding grass to 18” with muted, steel-blue foliage covered by soft, velvety hairs. The weeping habit adds to the grace of its character, as do the pale lilac-colored flowers that form in September and rise 2-3’ above the leaves before drying to a warm buff color. The ten-year old plants in our garden have held their delicate character without an annual shearing. Best in well-drained, fertile soil with full sun or light shade. The foliage will blush reddish-purple in cold temperatures. Hardy to 20F. Central Mexico.
rigens: Deer grass or Basket grass. Stephen Edwards says in his article, Ten Splendid Grasses, “Last spring, before the largest patch in the Regional Parks Botanic Garden had developed its new flowering culms, I found a woman stretched out snoozing among and upon the inviting bunches. She was shocked when I showed her the label, over which, having failed to notice it, she had thrown her coat. She had just gotten carried away.” Among the many reasons to use this fine native grass, we can now add napping. Deer grass forms dense hummocks of bright gray-green, evergreen foliage to 4’ tall with an equal spread. Flowers emerge silver in early summer, in showy, switch-like panicles 2-3’ tall that turn buff color later in the season. Plants prefer moist, well-drained, fertile soil in full sun or part shade with regular to occasional water. Tolerant of a wide range of garden conditions, we have seen deer grass perform equally well in clay or sandy soils, as well as thriving under extreme conditions including heat, drought, and saline soils. Useful massed in meadows, as filler in median strips or as a unifying element in mixed borders. Hardy to 0F. California (from San Diego to Mount Shasta), Texas and Northern Mexico.
Needle grass or feather grass. A large group of grass species native to the Americas, noted primarily for their wispy flowers held in long, delicate awns. Many species of the genus were previously included in the genus Stipa, including the two that we grow. The following require full sun, well-drained soil and moderate water. Hardiness varies. North America, Central America and South America.
pulchra (formerly Stipa pulchra): Purple needlegrass. Our California state grass, purple needlegrass forms tight bunches to 18” high with flowering stems to 3’, covered in purplish flowers. In summer, both flowers and leaves mature to a golden brown, remaining dormant until the arrival of winter rains. Useful in the wild garden, in meadows or on rocky slopes, it tolerates extremes in exposure and soil, but performs best in full sun in well-drained soil. Reseeds aggressively in favorable sites, though typically it is not invasive. Hardy to 10F. Western United States.
Mondo grass. Tufts of grass-like leaves bear white or lavender flowers in spike-like or branched clusters. A casual groundcover in small areas, in borders along paths, between perennial beds and lawn, in rock groupings, or in rock gardens. Grows well along streams and around garden pools. Requires well-drained soil, full sun on coast, shade inland, and regular to ample water. Hardy to 15F. South and East Asia.
planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’: Features strap-shaped leaves 6-12” long, that emerge green, but soon turn to black with a lustrous surface. Mature plants form a tuft 8” high and up to 12” wide. White, not especially showy, flowers sometimes flushed pink appear in summer, then develop into shiny, black ornamental berries. Combine with Viola ‘Bowles Black’ for a truly Gothic effect.
Switch grass. One of the original constituents of North America’s tall and short grass prairies. Durable and versatile warm season grass with attractive flowers and colorful fall foliage. Clumping form with large, ribbon-like leaves to 5’ tall. Bright green to blue leaves have a reddish tinge during the summer months, turning yellow in fall. Open panicles hold lacy flowers which emerge pinkish, reddish or silvery, and mature to gold-brown or silver, persisting well into winter. Useful as a background for large borders, in containers, or massed. Best in full sun and most soils with regular watering. Winter deciduous, cut back in late winter or early spring. Hardy to below 0F. Pantropical to temperate North America.
‘Dallas Blues’: A strong, vertical selection with steely blue foliage and strikingly unusual flowers that differ from all other Panicums. Plants grow to 5’ tall and are topped by reddish-purple plumes from summer to fall. Recommended!
‘Prairie Sky’: Handsome muted blue-gray, upright foliage to 4’ with airy flower stems rising an additional 2’. The bluest of the Panicums we have seen, holds attractive foliage till late September in our garden then slowly turns to sandy hues in winter. Rich blue color provides a long season of interest. Plant in full sun or part shade with moderate to occasional garden water. With excessive water, plants lose their strong vertical habit. Hardy to 0F. Eastern North America.
Fountain grass. A genus of about 120 species of annuals or perennials from the savanna and woodlands in the tropics and warm temperate regions. Most are warm season and clump-forming grasses with narrow, arching leaves and distinctive brush-like clusters of flowers. A few have serious potential for invasiveness. Plant in sun or light shade, in most soils with moderate water. Good in containers, perennial or shrub borders, or as bank cover. Young children often play hide-and-seek in the massed purple fountain grass of our garden. Size and color varies.
orientale: Oriental fountain grass. Warm season grass with spike-like, arching panicles to 8” long that open purple-pink and fade to tan. Blue-green leaves form upright, mounded clumps to 2’ high and wide. Useful massed or mixed in perennial borders. A tough and vigorous grass for full sun or light shade with moderate water. Drought tolerant but plants are usually smaller with water stress. Hardy to 0F. Central Asia, Northern and Western India.
setaceum ‘Eaton Canyon’: Compact purple fountain grass. A compact selection of the much loved purple fountain grass, this selection stays a manageable 30” tall. The rich burgundy foliage is slightly more narrow than its parent’s. Originated as a seedling from ‘Rubrum’ at Magic Growers in Pasadena, California. Hardy to 40F.
setaceum ‘Rubrum’: Purple-leafed fountain grass. A warm season grass with bold, burgundy colored foliage forming upright, arching clumps 5’ tall. Purple-red flowers form continously through the warm season on nodding 12” plumes. In the late season the rich foliage is topped with the fuzzy soft brown heads of mature flowers adding another season of interest. The foliage turns straw-colored with the first frost and the entire mass seems to melt as the storms and winds of winter tear at their form. Useful as an accent, massed in groups, or in containers. We have a large grouping of Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ in our garden which the neighbor children use for a number of engaging games. Prefers well-drained soil in full sun. Produces only occasional seedlings. Rapid growth in the warm season and can be used as an annual color in colder areas. Hardy to 25F. Garden origin.
setaceum ‘Rubrum Dwarf’: Dwarf red fountain grass. A good deal of confusion exists surrounding this name. After having tested at least three selections under this heading, we chose this vigorous cultivar, identical to P. setaceum ‘Rubrum’, but more compact growing to 3’ tall and as wide. Offers all the wonderful features of the full-sized form but with a tighter habit. Full sun and average garden water.
Phalaris arundinacea ‘Strawberries and Cream’ (syn. P. ‘Feecey’s Variety’)
Strawberries and cream ribbon grass. White-striped leaves are blushed pink as they rise along spreading rhizomes. Pink blush in the leaves fades as the season progresses. Flowers appear in soft white panicles in June, maturing to a pale brown on 18” stems. Winter foliage is not as dramatic in coastal California gardens, but still provids a winter grace. Exceptional accent plant, alone or in groups and well-suited in a border with regular water. Best in moist, fertile soil with light shade or half day sun. Tolerates standing water and not a good choice for the dry gardens. Tolerates sandy or rocky soil, as well as windy coastal conditions as long as water is provided. Tough, tenacious and aggressive in favorable sites. Hardy to 0F. Garden origin.
Compact white-striped bamboo. This small bamboo noted for its handsome dark green and white variegated foliage serves as a robust groundcover in full sun or part shade. Although it rarely grows higher than 3’ (and typically stays beneath 2’), it spreads by rhizomes almost indefinitely with regular moisture. Plants are remarkably drought tolerant once established and the vigorous spread can be limited by withholding water. Plant in well-drained soils and provide an annual shearing each spring. Hardy to below 0F. Japan.
From the Restio family, the following are reed-like ornamentals grown primarily for their architectural form and unusual texture. Plant in full sun in any well-drained soil and provide moderate water. Use in combination with grasses, as specimen plants, in containers, or on slopes. Hardiness varies. South Africa.
arida: This species forms slender, whip-like stems to 6’ that are often ringed at the base by fine, wiry foliage giving the plant a most unusual appearance. All parts of the plant are a dusty gray-green except for the occasional sandy-brown bracts or inconspicuous flowering clusters. Though it will tolerate seasonal wetness, this species normally prefers dry areas. Not a good choice for containers due to its large, unruly size. Hardy possibly to 30F.
capensis: Forms reed-like stems covered with fine foliage and grows 6-8’ tall. Described as being “extremely elegant” in its native habitat. Hardy to 20F.
gigantea: Perhaps the lushest looking of the restios, this species forms fluffy plumes of arching foliage that resemble nothing familiar. In full sun plants will reach 6-9’. Plants resent excessive fertilizer and boggy soils; keep on the dry side for best results. Hardy to 10F.
Ruby grass. This perennial grass from South Africa bears blue-green foliage that blushes ruby-red in cool temperatures and silky, irridescent ruby-pink flowers from May to December. A striking beauty to 12” tall with an equal spread, it grows well in sandy soils and is remarkably tolerant of coastal conditions. Plant in full sun and provide moderate water. Evergreen in mild climates, it is hardy to 20F. South Africa.
Moor grass. Evergreen, non-invasive, cool season grasses planted for their foliage. Their adaptability, resistance to pests, and ease of maintenance make them suitable for a range of garden uses. Consider for groundcover, mass plantings, in understory of shrubs and trees, or mixed among perennials. Most prefer full sun or light shade with moderate water and are not particularly fussy about soil type. They are not strong grasses in hotter California climates. The following are hardy to 0F. Europe.
autumnalis: Autumn moor grass. Forms upright, tufted mounds of bright yellow-green leaves. Rugged and easy to grow, it reaches 16-18” tall and wide. In April or May, flowers are held on spikes 6-8” above foliage and emerge purple-black, covered with silky white stamens, then mature to brown. Useful as large-scale groundcover, on slopes, and under the light shade of trees. We have planted small drifts among the native oaks in our garden for a woodland effect. Eastern and Northern Italy to Albania.
caerulea: Blue moor grass. Mat-forming grass with interesting bi-colored leaves, 6-12” long, lying nearly flat on the ground. Upper surface of the leaves is blue-green with the underside silver-white. Panicles emerge purple-black in March maturing to amber by June. Useful as a low maintenance lawn for small yards, mass plantings, filler, or edging. Full sun along the coast, light to full shade in inland gardens. Plants in our garden have a stronger character in the shade and we have used it successfully in the understory of native oaks. Richer with regular garden water but drought tolerant at maturity. Also tolerant of occasional foot traffic. Eastern Europe.
heufleriana: Green moor grass. Evergreen, cool season grass to 12” tall and as wide. Leaves have a dark green upper surface, powder blue underneath. The rolling surface exposes both surfaces at the same time providing a charming two-toned effect. Dark brown flowers appear in March. Exceptional as an edging plant or transition from lawn to perennial border. Full sun along the coast and some shade inland. Requires regular garden water. Southeastern Europe.
Alkali sacaton or Alakali dropseed. Clumping, warm season grass with grayish-green foliage in upright, arching mounds 2-3’ tall and as wide. Showy, cloud-like flowers emerge June through July in mauve-pink, openly branched panicles 2-3’ above the foliage. As the season progresses they become amber then gold, remaining showy until the first winter rains. Striking in dried flower arrangements. Straw-colored foliage in winter. Use massed as large-scale groundcover, in meadows or for erosion control. Best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Tolerates drought, heat, alkaline and saline soils and can easily survive without summer water, although supplemental water is recommended for a cultivated appearance. Hardy to 0F. Western North America.
Feather grass, Spear grass or Needle grass. The delicate plumes of feather grass provide light and movement in the garden. Flowering stalks arch gracefully above the foliage, displaying showy flower heads that seem to capture and hold the light. Most require full sun and well-drained soil. Excellent in meadows and as low maintenance cover for banks. Most do well in hot, dry climates with moderate or occasional water. Hardiness varies but most will tolerate California temperatures. Temperate regions.
gigantea: Giant feather grass. Forms evergreen clumps of narrow green leaves to 3’ tall and as wide. Open yellow-gold panicles shimmer in a broad cloud to 6’ tall. A durable and striking grass well-suited to California grasses. Full sun or light shade with moderate to occasional water once established. Reseeds, but not in a disagreeable manner. Hardy to 0F. Central and Southern Spain, Portugal, and Northwestern Africa.
tenuissima: Mexican feather grass. The thread-like, bright green leaves of this ultra fine-textured grass form soft clumps to 2 or 3’ high. Pliant, nodding panicles on slender stalks open bright green in late spring, then age to gold and finally bleach to creamy-white by fall. These feathery clumps wave gracefully in even the slightest breeze and offer drama and elegance to the garden, especially when combined with dark-leafed plants like Rhamnus ‘Leatherleaf’ or some of the darker Phormiums. Use singly or scattered in clumps as an effective groundcover, among boulders, or on slopes for erosion control. Prefers fertile well-drained soil in sun or partial shade with moderate garden water. Mexican feather grass self-sows invasively in gardens with constant moisture, but much less aggressively in dry gardens. Hardy to 0F. Southwestern United States, Mexico, and Argentina.
Members of the restio family from South Africa, the following species represent the diversity of this rush-like genus. Like the Chondropetalum and the Rhodocomas, Thamnochortus grows best in well-drained soils in full sun with moderate water. They can be used effectively with grasses and sedges or in containers as specialty items. Because they are relatively new to cultivation, little is known about specific tolerances, though the majority of the restios seem to perform best in poorer (rather than excessively fertile) soils. Hardy to to 15F. South Africa.
cinereus: This large and highly ornamental species exhibits a strong vertical form to 5’ tall and bears showy springtime flowers making it an excellent choice for larger containers. Thread-like branches cluster at the nodes along the vertical, whip-like stems and large, feathery inflorescences appear at the gently arching tips. Particularly handsome when backlit by morning or afternoon light.
insignis: Similar in some respects to Chondropetalum tectorum, this species forms a tall, unbranched clump of slender, reed-like stems with inconspicuous chocolate flowers held at the tips. At the base of this 6’ architectural mound is the immature fern-like foliage, forming a lacy ring at the plant’s crown. Plants grown in part shade are less strongly vertical, but still exhibit a handsome form.
Cattail. Known for their familiar cylinder-shaped felted brown spikes, the larger, native species were commonly used by Native Americans for baskets and shelter. In recent years the cattails of certain species have been used to filter polluted water. Blue-green blades are slender, upright to 18” high with 1” cattails. Thrives in standing water or perennially moist situations. Exceptional choice for water features in full sun or part shade. Hardy to 5F. Japan.
uncinata Red New Zealand sedge. Mahogany-colored tufts to 16” high, turning brilliant orange-red in winter. Winter color is not as distinctive in mild climates. Full sun or part shade especially in hotter climates. Moisture retentive soil and regular garden water produce much more satisfactory specimens. Suitable as an accent plant or along pools or shady borders. Hardy to 10F. New Zealand.