Tag Archives: Carex

Carex ‘Grayi’ and Packera aurea

As I wander through my decaying garden these days, it’s like a brown-out. All of the ornamental grasses have resorted to their buff winter color and almost all of the perennials are a mess of brown/black.

But there are two perennials that stand out in their still staying green color. Two native perennials that are not so well known and not so flashy but can be a welcome addition to the garden. That is assuming  your garden is like mine: moisture-filled (aka poorly draining) and critter-filled (aka herds of visiting deer).

Let’s take a closer look at both of these plants.


Carex ‘grayi’

Common name: Gray sedge

Zone: 5-9

Size: 3′ x 2′

Bloom time: May – October

Exposure: Full to partial sun (performs best in full sun)

Soil: Wet, bog garden plant.

Native: Eastern U.S.

Deer resistant: Yes

Origin of name: Named after famed botanist Asa Gray from the 1800’s

I purchased these in bulk a few years back and sited them in a known wet spot, in full sun.

They’ve thrived here and have quickly doubled in size in only 2 years time.

The seed heads have a club-like shape and start out yellow/green before transforming to brown as fall/winter arrives.

I welcome the semi-evergreen nature of this grass-like perennial. The green stands out in a sea of deadness this time of year.

And when the light hits them just right in winter, the seed heads are reflected in the snow in a cool and funky way. I have no photos to prove this so you’ll just have to trust me until I can prove it to you.


Packera aurea

Common name: Golden Ragwort

Zone: 3-8

Size: 2.5′ x 1.5′

Bloom time: April

Exposure: Full to partial sun (thrives in partial shade)

Soil: Wet, bog garden plant.

Native: Eastern U.S.

Deer resistant: Nibbled a bit but never fully destroyed (fingers crossed)

Origin of name: Named after famed botanist John Packer

I went nuts and ordered 50+ plugs of this native perennial two years ago from the native plant purveyor, Izel. To date, I have zero regrets.

While they were small when first planted, they have rocketed in growth ever since.

And they bloomed like mad that first spring with the buds first appearing in early April. A time when I welcome any blooms in my garden.

And do they ever bloom their little heads off. Endless yellow daisy-like flowers completely inundate the plant.


I made sure to snip off the spent blooms immediately to prevent seeding as this is a potentially heavy seeder. We’ll see if I was successful or not this spring, although I would welcome some reseeding.

After cutting them all down to their basal foliage, they remain bright green in color and thrive all spring/summer and even into late fall as seen in the photo below.

That is assuming they remain consistently moist as they do not dig the dry soil.




















A very special delivery

You want to know what is awesome?

Beyond a fried egg on a pizza or cheeseburger.

And beyond the current version of my Excel document that lists every plant I own. That thing is closer to “really awesome”.

And beyond the fact that I have planted over 100 bulbs the past two days … as the sun was rising each morning. No, that screams “utter determination”.

Today’s “awesome” story is shockingly about … ornamental grasses. But we’re not talking about another endless photo shoot from yours truly. Nope.

I wanted to share the fact that I recently received close to 75 new grasses in the mail from my friends over at Hoffman Nursery (full disclosure, they were provided free of charge).

Upon opening the box, I fainted and had to be revived by my daughter. She is used to this type of reaction by now so it was no biggie for her. I like her ability to handle herself under pressure.

After coming to, I actually found myself pumped up and a nervous wreck at the same time. I couldn’t wait to find a place to plant them all. And I was terrified thinking about finding a place to plant them all. We all garden to relax, right?

After I carefully removed my skirt and put my big boy pants on, I came up with a plan for just about all of the grasses. Although I will ask you for the right to change my mind within the next 24 to 48 hours.

I won’t bore you (as if that has ever stopped me before) with all of the details since the grasses are still only little pups,  but I have to show you some of what I did. If only to use as the “once upon time” portion of a future post that shows just how damn awesome these grasses really are.

For true visual impact and knowing that they would be planted in a “moist” area, I planted 10 Carex grayi as a ground cover along one of the beds in my backyard.



This is my first exposure to this sedge and I am most excited about the unusual looking seed heads that are produced. To see a good shot of those seed heads, click here.

Staying with the groundcover and sedge theme, next up are the ten Carex appalachica I planted underneath a River Birch tree.



These sedges prefer a much drier soil and based on what I had researched, can withstand root competition with trees. I’ve struggled to keep anything alive under my Birch trees so I’m hoping I’ve finally found the solution.

The next two pics are of Sorghastrum ‘Indian Steel’ (you can read more about it here). I found a few locations for these natives and look forward to the their upright and deliciously blue stems.



This spring, I planted a Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama Grass) and I’m just now seeing the horizontal seed heads it is known for.



And guess who now is the proud owner of 7 more of these? I added a bunch of them around my existing grass, hoping the massing will make quite a splash for summers to come.


OK, technically I haven’t planted all of the grasses yet, but I am doing my best to keep them watered until I can find them a semi-permanent home.


I would love to hear from you if you have had any experiences with any of these grasses mentioned above.

I also planted Panicum ‘Squaw’, Panicum ‘Thundercloud’ and Calamagrostis brachytricha.

And yes, I rule.

Carex and Ajuga

Somewhere in my past travels I saw a line of Carex (Sedge) planted within a mass of Ajuga (Bugleweed). I believe it was at Longwood Gardens but it could have easily been in a magazine or even a dream (no exaggeration here). Either way, I found the combination intriguing and vowed to attempt it myself.

I have oodles of Ajuga in my garden:

And I love me some Carex.

It didn’t take long for me to identify the area where I wanted to make the magic happen:

All that was left to do was to purchase the Carex. My go-to retailer when ordering grasses on-line is Santa Rosa Gardens. They always have grasses super cheap, especially in the middle of summer. The plan was to acquire around ten sedges as this vignette needed to make a statement.

Lo and behold, Santa Rosa came through yet again and I purchased ten Carex oshimensis ‘Ice Cream’ at $3.99 a pop (hop over to their site immediately, they only have four left in stock):

Once they arrived in the mail, I wasted no time and went to work; blazing hot sun and high temps be damned.

Step one was to dig out small plugs of the Ajuga:

Step two was to replace those plugs with the newly purchased Carex:

It didn’t take long before all were planted:

Step three was to transplant the cut out Ajuga plugs to other parts of the garden.

Step four was to heavily water all of these plants.

The final step is to now kick back and wait and see if this planting performs and actually looks any good.

Only time will tell.

Carex tenuiculmis ‘Cappuccino’

My favorite way to plant shop is to forgo any sort of planning and just buy what I like. I prefer to “act now and think later”.

Who cares if there isn’t room for these plants (there is always room)?

Who cares if they may be pushing the zone that they survive in (I’ll take extra care of them, I swear)?

Who cares if they kind of look like they’re dead at all times (Just another piece of the proverbial garden puzzle)?

So there I was slumming it at Home Depot (I kid) a few years ago trying to ignore the hundreds of impatiens and begonias, hoping I could find some semi-unique plant that I could waste my money on.

And like an oasis in the desert, I spotted a bunch of oddly colored grasses hidden in a corner amongst empty containers and dying plants.

Upon closer inspection, the grasses were kind of cool in an offbeat way and I sort of dug their color. Turns out they were Carex (sedge) ‘Cappuccino’ (awesome name):                  

Without giving it much thought or reading the plant labels, I threw five in my cart and hurried to the check-out booth before I could second guess my purchase.

When I got home, I did a little internet research and while there wasn’t a ton of info out there, I did discover:

  • Survives in zones 6 (or 7 on some sites) to zone 9
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade 
  • Gets to be about 18″ tall and 24″ wide
  • Requires moist soil (like most sedge)

At the time, I thought, OK, they may not survive the winter here in zone 6B but I gave it a shot. They held up well for a year in a protected spot with full sun but I didn’t like how they looked in mass. So I moved them to a bed along my driveway where I strategically placed them hoping to create rhythm and repetition (who do I think I am?).

They are still there to this day:

I love this “grass” (technically I don’t think it is a true grass) and its color, texture and mounding shape. And they provide that sought after “year round interest”.

The color is awesome first emerging in spring after being cut down nearly to the ground: 

I have some Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ in front of them and the color scheme is pretty cool when the ajuga are in bloom:

As the spring turns to summer, the carex turn in to good looking wispy mounds of awesomeness:

When the sun hits them just right, you can see their reddish copper color emerge:

As the cold weather and frost hits in the fall/winter, they keep their form and still look phenomenal:

And that my friends is the story of how an obsessive and neurotic gardener created a lifetime of love with a little known plant who was toiling in obscurity at a big box store.

So remember, your lesson for today is to “just buy what you like” and figure it all out later.

Life’s to short to be planning all the time.