A Pocket Meadow of Pennsylvania Sedge

There’s a small area between our Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) and the border along the back fence that is like the Valley of the Shadow of Death for standard turf grasses. The moisture gets sucked out of this shaded patch by the Maple and also by a Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) that grows against the fence.

sedge lawn
Photo from Prairienursery.com. This is a Penn Sedge lawn that looks nothing like my sedge pocket meadow, which looks so awful right now that I’m not including any pictures of it. But I promise to post pics in spring, regardless of how it looks. 

 

In the past I’ve tried to encourage the bits of grass that hang on grimly to life, but usually it seems what they really want is hospice care. Weeds, notably Common Plantain (Plantago major), were growing robustly enough.

I unintentionally smothered most of the grass here when I overwintered my pots planted with Tulips and other bulbs. So I decided to try something new: a miniature sedge meadow.

penn sedge woodland
Photo from Prairienursery.com. An open woodland carpeted with Pennsylvania Sedge.

I say meadow, not lawn, because I didn’t pull out all of the potentially competing plants. I did pull out all the Plantain by hand, which was oddly satisfying (and surprisingly, it has been slow to grow back). However, I left the Common Blue Violets (Viola sororia). Either they will coexist with the Sedge or not. Based on their behavior so far in this area I don’t think they will squeeze out the Penn Sedge.

I also left a few bits of surviving grass, which everybody says not to do. But this grass never gets much over 1 or 2 inches tall, so what’s the harm?

Finally, I created a little border of pavers so that the “meadow” has a clear boundary with the lawn (such as it is) though both can be walked on.

Penn Sedge has a number of good qualities. It grows about 6-12 inches tall and can take moderate foot traffic. It tolerates shade and dry soil. It also has seeds that attract ground-feeding birds, especially Sparrows and Easter Towhees. With time it can form a solid ground cover.

penn sedge flower
Photo from Prairienursery.com. Pennsylvania Sedge in flower.

The soil in this location is more compacted than it should be, so I’m going to top dress with compost in fall and spring.

Anyhow, this spring I planted 25 plugs and 25 bare root plants of Penn Sedge. The plugs all took, the bare root plants all died except for one. I have no idea why, but I’m definitely staying away from bare root sedges in the future.

In August I picked up a few more at a nearby garden center, during a stretch that was cool and rainy. This was a mistake, as the weather soon turned hot and dry (oh, when will I ever learn?). I kept the new Sedges alive only through diligent hand watering.

Late in September, when the weather became autumnal, I bought a few more. Those are doing fine.

Next year we should learn if this whole project was well conceived or not. I’ll probably want to plant a few more plugs, but I was thinking of mixing in some additional species of Sedge. I’m open to suggestions, if anyone has some.

Have you ever tried to grow a Sedge Lawn or Meadow?

49 Comments on “A Pocket Meadow of Pennsylvania Sedge”

  1. I haven’t tried a sedge meadow. I like the idea of an area that doesn’t have to be mowed, likes shade etc…I don’t think I would leave any violets in there. They are troublemakers. I would be afraid that they would kill the sedges and anything else that tried to grow with them. They are ferocious in my garden. I have never seen this PA Sedge available around here.

  2. For some reason, the thought of a sedge meadow seems strange to me. I suppose it’s because I really don’t know much about sedges except that I always see them in watery locations like ditches and prairie potholes. That sedge meadow is beautiful — I hope they work out for you, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing the result. (I believe I might read a bit about sedges generally, too.)

      • Oh, I am aware of how they are regarded within their native range. We do not speak of it much here. They are rare enough that no one needs to know. The Norway maple that is such an invasive exotic farther east happens to be one of the better street trees in San Jose. I would prefer sugar maple, but it does not do so well here. Red maple (cultivars) are probably the best, but they are susceptible to sun scale while young.

  3. Yes, Penn Sedge is awesome. Olbrich Botanical Gardens has a couple of nifty meadows filled with it. I tried adding PA sedge a few years ago, along with some VA bluebells in a really shady area in the garden–after a drought killed some plants in that area. A few of the sedges took, and so did the bluebells, but what really surprised me was several volunteer trilliums. Sometimes plans yield some unexpected, but equally gratifying results. 😉

  4. Your sedges look really great. They look rather like the patches where `I have created patches of pure single stands (with a few Winter bulbs) of unmown chewing fescue grass in my garden in York UK. I have a blog about it on the stocks for next month.

  5. An interesting project and I wish you luck. I have almost no experience with sedge, but just planted one I was given… in the completely wrong place of course as I have no shade to offer it! Look forward to seeing your meadow next year. 🙂

  6. In Roy Diblik’s book, “Know Maintenance Perennial Garden”, he discusses sedges quite a bit and lays out some design plans for combining different sedges. If you’re looking to add some sedges to the mix, might be something to look at.

  7. Jason … I think you are on the right track and with patience I believe it will work out !
    I love a few sedges here and there in my own garden. I don’t have the room for something as ambitious as this but I am very interested to see how it will work out for you.
    We can NOT count on the weather to do what it has done any more .. it is so unpredictable now .. we just have to take chances as gardeners … and ? be optimistic !

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