Pictured below are Carex montana and Carex pensylvanica ‘Straw Hat’ blooming on April 30, 2020 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Carex montana is native to Europe and Russia and has survived one winter in Minnesota. ‘Straw Hat’ is a selection of Penn sedge from Intrinsic Perennials that has many flowers. Both are low growing sedges for shade. Penn sedge has good sun tolerance but can turn brown in late summer with full sun.
Native sedges can begin to grow as soon as the snow leaves Minnesota. Shown here are Carex pedunculata, longstalk sedge, foreground and Carex grisea, wood gray sedge, back left. It’s nice to see the green color early in the spring.
Kelly Norris, Director of Horticulture at Des Moines Botanic Garden spoke at Northern Green 2020 in Minneapolis and recommended ‘Dancing Wind’ big bluestem and ‘Standing Ovation’ little bluestem. It is good to know these cultivars are standing up well for gardens in Iowa. In Minnesota we often see these lodge or fall over. ‘Dancing Wind’ has red flowers and stems in mid to late summer. After the first year, pictured below, this cultivar has lodged or fallen over by late summer. ‘Standing Ovation’ can be quite variable in vigor and although it has a rainbow of color in the foliage, it often is floppy.
‘Dancing Wind’ big bluestem 1 year old
‘Standing Ovation’ 3 years old
Research at North Carolina State University found that two cultivars of switchgrass had excellent or good resistance to the common soil fungus Phytophthora. ‘Shenandoah’ showed excellent disease resistance while ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ showed good disease resistance . Read the full report here. ‘Shenandoah’ , shown below, center, was one of 4 switchgrass cultivars to receive an above average rating in the National Grass Trials held across the U. S. from 2012-2015.
Despite the return of white and cold, little bluestem looks great in the landscape!
Above left is little bluestem (species, no cultivar) on the U of M St. Paul campus, Nov. 13, 2019. On the right at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum are 3 little bluestem cultivars ‘Prairie Munchkin’, front left, ‘Little Luke’ front right and background, dark purple ‘Blue Paradise’, photo taken Nov. 7, 2019.
Tall Molinia, (Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea) mooregrass cultivars may look similar until you see the cultivars side by side. The green plants in the background way behind the bench are Molinia ‘Windspeil’ on the left, ‘Karl Forester’ center and ‘Sky Racer’ on the right on Sept 27, 2019. The photo on the right shows the same plants on Oct 25, 2019 ‘Sky Racer’ in the center and ‘Karl Forester’ on the left in the background.
A guide to gardening with native grasses written by Diane Narem and Mary H. Meyer of the University of Minnesota was published in May 2018. The ebook won the Silver Medal in June 2019 and was the final gold medal winner for an ebook announced in Sept 2019 at the GardenComm Annual Conference. This eBook is available free download from the iBooks store. You can also find it by searching the full title: Gardening with Native Grasses in Cold Climates and a Guide to The Butterflies They Support.