C. 'Beatlemania' as a groundcover in the corner of a stone wall in my front garden. Absolutely love this little charmer. Double click on any picture to enlarge it so you can see the details.
. . .
Last week Jeff Epping, director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, and Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm (Northwind not only has a FB page, they are on Pinterest with 20 boards of inspiration) sang the praises of Carex at the monthly meeting of the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society. I'm here to add my own as I am currently growing just over a dozen kinds of Carex. They are my go-to plant for easy care ground covers, particularly in dry shade.
The ones that have worked well for me as ground covers are:
- C. rosea: Very fine textured and delicate looking but it's been growing under a Silver Maple tree for ten years with no problems.
- C. plantaginea: Pleated leaves give this one its name of seersucker sedge. Thick clumps suppress weeds. Delicately self-seeds with tiny plants that can easily be put where you want them.
C. rosea behind the Hosta and C. plantaginea in the foreground; all growing under a Silver maple tree.
- C. siderosticha variegata: Been growing this since 1997 on a fairly sunny clay bank. I rake out the dead bits in the spring and that's all the work it needs.
- C. caryophylla 'Beatlemania/Mophead': Another one with fine leaves but these are edged in gold. Lovely if you can find a raised location in order to enjoy its sweet charm.
Carex can also be used as accent plants.
- C. siderosta 'Banana Boat' and 'Lemon Zest' are so colorful they will claim all the attention if you try to use them as a wide swath. 'Lemon zest' can take more sun than 'Banana Boat' in my experience.
C. 'Lemon Zest' as a ground cover (above with Epimedium rubrum) in my garden and where I've been slowly trying to get it to fill in and brighten this shady spot.
- C. elata 'Bowles Golden' can get up to 18" wide and 24" tall, making a dramatic focal point, but its leaves are narrow and arching so it never overwhelms its neighbors, visually or actually.
- C. platyphylla has slightly pleated long leaves that are a glaucous blue. I've always used this as a single accent but last fall planted a group as a ground cover under a 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac. We'll see what happends when the snow melts.
- C. greyii is the one everyone always asks me about because the seedheads look like little Sputnik space ships. A real standout in the winter garden.
The spacey seed heads of C. greyii in summer and winter (above).
Troublesome Carexes? I've had problems with C. flacca/glauca "running" in my garden. I wanted it to stay in a woodland spot but it wanted to fill up the paths and keep going. Everyone seems to like this one but I pulled mine all out.
C. muskingumensis likes moisture and loves the bog where I planted it. The problem is that you can't use a shovel or any sharp tool to dig out a plant that is taking over when you have an artificial pond with a rubber liner. So trying to keep this under control is always an issue for me.
The pleated leaves of C. siderosticha variegata (top photo) are similar to C. plantginea with the addition of the striping. The clump in the middle photo is growing in good soil in full sun. In the third picture, it's been growing on this packed down clay soil for years with few problems. C. muskingumensis is growing directly behind it, with water Iris in the rear.
C. sylvatica or European wood sedge makes a large clump about 18' high and similar width. I use this one as an accent plant. Its seed heads love the gravel path it grows next to, so I often pull them out as they're coming into bloom rather than pull seedlings out of the path.