Gardener's Notebook - Horticulture wind-up set for June 19

The season of meetings is coming to a close!  The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society will be holding their season wind-up on Wednesday, June 19. This is a member’s only event, the last one before we take the summer off and dive into gardening! Members, if you have any questions about the event, please call Liz at 782-2830.

You know how we always encourage each other to try at least one new plant each year? I’d like to tell you about one that we tried last year, and it did so well that we added one more to our collection this year.

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The plant is ornamental carex grass, “Ice Dance”, a lovely robust plant of slender green leaves edged in white.  It is a variegated sedge, part of the large carex family of grasses that has more than 2000 species.  This grass is a perennial that forms a dense mound, about twelve inches tall, and will do well in all conditions from part shade to full shade. The only spot it will not prefer is an area of full, hot sun. It would do well as a ground cover or an edging plant, and their usual way of spreading is by rhizomes.  Once it is established, its water needs are average, although it doesn’t like wet feet.

Last year, we had our “Ice Dance” planted in a large container. It looked beautiful, very architectural with its sturdy leaves, and when fall came we planted it in the garden to hopefully winter over. But because it was new to us, we weren’t sure if it would survive.

Well, guess what, it came through the winter with flying colors. In fact, as the snow began to melt in the spring, the grass looked as fresh as if we just planted it, although it was squashed down from the weight of the snow. We were thrilled, because it was truly lovely. We planted it in a container again, trimmed off the leaf tips that were dried up, and it is once again a striking part of our container collection.

Just as a note, we did make a point of shovelling snow on this plant and other container plants that were transplanted into the garden in the fall, just to give them that extra bit of insulation. Ninety percent of them came through. Some are just getting their second wind now, but still, they went through a hard winter!

So if you are looking for an interesting grass to add to your perennial bed, this one is a nice choice! “Karl Foerster” is still the king of elegant grasses, but it’s nice to have a variety of grasses with different leaf shapes and colors. One that was not all that common for a while but is once again getting back in the spotlight is blue fescue. This beautiful puff of very slender grass stems, in the loveliest misty blue-green, is a perennial that likes full sun and is quite drought tolerant. I remember that Sweet Pea had several in a clump in a garden island, and my, they looked striking!

Imagine if you had a collection: tall and handsome Karl Foerster in the background, then several “Ice Dance” carex for the next layer, then a grouping of shorter blue fescue for the final layer.  Accent this with a layer of bark mulch and a few rocks and a Japanese lantern, and you’ve got a beautiful patch that will look stunning all summer, without one bloom in sight!

And if you want to grow “Ice Dance” in a container, it will do fine, but remember that you will have to plant it in the ground for the winter.  It will not survive if you leave it in the container.

Visit us at www.yorktonhort.ca, and have a great week! Be sure to wear a hat!

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