CAREX. Sedge. Worldwide, but mostly in temperate regions. A huge group of generally rugged, undemanding perennials. Now that a wave of grass and sedge insanity seems to be dying down, we all have a chance to scrutinize them more closely and separate the best from the rest (we are still a good distance from the end point in this process). The sedges generally resemble the grasses, except in their flowering heads, and are compatible with them in the landscape. The following form dense basal clumps or mats of shoots with narrow, arching leaves. These give a fountain--like effect. Clusters of tiny, chaffy flowers borne on slender stems above the leavesusually in summerare mildly decorative. Various selections are useful in borders, as drifts on banks or in poolside plantings. Sun or part shade, reasonably well drained soil, moderate to regular watering. Hardiness varies, but may be assumed to be 15oF or less.
comans. New Zealand. Exceptionally finely textured, both leaves and flowering stems being reduced to 1' to 1½' long threads, pale and somewhat greyish green in color, curling at the tips. There is some question about material we have received as Frosty Curls (it may or may not be a clonal selection). However, it seems more compact than other forms I have tried.
conica Hime-Kansuga. Japan. This is the dwarfest of our offerings, with narrow leaves only 4" long, dark green on the margins with a cream-colored central band. It is one of the most suitable selections for the rock garden.
dolichostachya Kaga Nishiki. A Japanese selection making graceful fountains of narrow 1 leaves, margined and striped with creamy yellow. The clumps spread slowly to cover a 1-2 swath.
elata Bowles Golden. This is one of the brightest of the yellow sedges. According to exposure, soil and watering, it may grow from 8" to over 2' high, though always in a dense, spreading hummock. The leaves are almost uniformly yellow, developing narrow dark green margins as they mature. The flowers are tan and uninteresting. This is one of the water-loving sedges, most at home beside a pond or stream.
elegantissima Variegata. This is a name of dubious validity. However, it will have to do until something more authoritative comes along. The plant forms extremely tight clumps, with finely textured leaves about 1' long. Each has a dark green central stripe, narrowly margined with pale yellow.
flagellifera. New Zealand. An elegant sedge, useful in a variety of settings. It makes dense clumps with extremely narrow leaves up to 18" long. They are heavily tinted with bronze in the warmer months, adding beautiful pink and orange shades in winter.
glauca. Blue sedge. Europe, widespread. A low, matting species with bright bluish green leaves and stems 6-10" long.
morrowii. Japan. A variable species, either clumping or spreading in habit. In its typical form, it grows nearly erect to about 18" high, with rather broad, deep green leaves. The popular cultivars are both smaller and more fountain-like. Aureo-variegata grows 8-12" high, making dense clumps. It has rather narrow, arching leaves with green margins and creamy yellow central bands. Ice Dance is a carpeting selection of about the same height, with dark green, cream-margined leaves.
ornithopoda Variegata. Birds foot sedge. This is one of the tidiest of the smaller sedges, making hummocks only 6-10" high. The leaves are quite narrow, and delicate in appearance. Each has a central cream-colored band with fine deep green borders. This is a well-behaved sedge, for shady nooks, rock gardens and mixed plantings in large pots.
pansa. Meadow sedge. A coastal California native, making what Munz terms scattered tufts as the rhizomes wander. Better forms produce a nearly solid turf. The leaves are narrow and usually 3-8 long, dark green and softly shining. Flowering stems may rise to 1'.
phyllocephala Sparkler. China. This is a curious plant. Instead of the usual basal clumps, it produces bracted stems up to 2 high, with crowns of 8-12 leaves at the tips. The leaves have broad creamy yellow margins and random, narrower stripes. In spite of the variegation, it thrives in full sun near the coast, though it should be lightly shaded inland. It needs constant moisture.
siderosticha Variegata. East Asia. The variegated sedges just keep coming! This is a recent arrival in California, making broad, rather dense mats. The leaves are unusual for a sedge, being short (to 8") and wide. They are clean, bright green overall, with narrow cream margins and stripes. They are winter-deciduous.
spissa. A native of southern California, growing 3-5' tall. It is distinguished by bold, greyish green leaves. The flower clusters are nearly black. This is nearly an aquatic plant and is probably best used at poolside and in other moist spots.
testacea. New Zealand. There are other bronze sedges, but most have struck me as looking a bit muddy (the sort of thing that makes people ask, Is that plant alive?). This one is bright and cheery the year round. It makes elegant fountains 1-2' tall of very narrow, shiny leaves, copper colored in winter and orange and green in the warmer months.
texensis. Catlin sedge. A much more refined plant than the last two, this is a pretty native of the Southwest. It makes tidy clumps usually under 6" tall. Both stems and leaves are narrow, bright green in color and shiny in surface. It is an ideal subject for planting between stepping stones and in rock walls, as well as attractive in open drifts.
tumulicola. This is a native of California and the Northwest, much resembling C. texensis. It makes spreading hummocks, usually under 1' tall, with arching deep green, very narrow leaves. One of the best sedges for ground cover.