We Have a Confession

Carex plantaginea

The spring flower spikes and damaged leaves of Seersucker Sedge.

Spring is here and business is ramping up. And we have greenhouses full of Carex of all types. If you know us, and know James, we have a thing for Carex. Generally we have nothing but good things to say about sedges. We want to talk them up because they are underused in the landscape, those that are used are used too much at the expense of diverse landscapes and enhanced displays. These are missed opportunities to be sure.

But, if we are going to talk about all of the great features of sedges (there is a sedge for every landscape situation, deer do not bother them, they come in many colors and habits and have the potential for replacing the ubiquitous lawn) there is a down side.

Yes, that’s right, New Moon Nursery, home of the King of Carex James Brown, is admitting that there is a down side to Carex.  Can you guess what it is? It has to do with the season.

Messy. Floppy. Less than Stunning. That describes Carex in Spring.  They sort of go through an ugly duckling stage as they move from winter foliage to the leaves of the new season.  And we know this is a concern. It is something you should prepare your clients for and it is something you should plan for as you work on your designs using sedges.

We have some ideas for this.

Education – explain that your sedges offer seasonal interest! What fun is a plant that looks exactly the same all the time? How interesting is that? These small unassuming plants change in the spring, shedding the leaves that got them through harsh winter weather, sending up their wind pollinated blooms and sprouting up the new bright green of spring, eventually.  Perhaps getting someone to think about these in the same way as they think about perennial grasses will work, people do not mind having the grasses pruned back in early spring and waiting for them to regrow into their summer glory. The same can be done with sedges. They, too, can use a haircut in the early spring.

Mertsenia virginiana

The multihued flowers of Virginia Bluebell may provide enough of a distraction from the less than stellar spring sedges.

Planning – While many people may be using sedges as an alternative open greenspace to lawn or to create large swaths of low green groundcover in shady areas, perhaps consider mixing the sedges with plants that will distract people from spring sedges then disappear when the sedges start to shine again. Perhaps interplant sedge beds with traditional spring blooming bulbs or some spring ephemerals like Virginia Bluebells, Trillium, Spring Beauty, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, Cutleaf Toothwort, and Rue Anemones. The blooms of Wild Columbine may also do the trick, combine the various cultivars for varied heights and flower colors.

Carex plantaginea

A fall display of Seersucker Sedge

We are not trying to talk you out of sedges, but we think you should know. As much as we believe sedges are the answer to many landscape problems, we have to admit the may present a challenge of their own. But we are confident that the benefits of including sedges far outweigh this one minor flaw and with some creativity and open-mindedness, it can be overcome.

So we wonder, do you have experience with the ugly duckling spring stage of sedges? How have you dealt with it?






  1. […] Carex blanda – as if it is not already difficult enough to sell sedges to the masses. Folks not in the know about the wonders of the diversity in form, color and culture of sedges would likely not be drawn to a sedge with the word bland in its name. But the Common Wood Sedge (I mean can we get some marketing people on the plant naming committees please…) is a compact clump forming perennial that will do well in part to full shade and moist to mesic soils. The shiny foliage gets up to 8″ long and is a wonderful option for a shade loving ground cover. If you know folks who adore Liriope and Ophiopogon but are looking for a native alternative, this may be the plant for them, not bland at all. […]

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