Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Variegated Palm Sedge - Carex muskingumensis 'Oehme'

Compared to grasses for sunny gardens, the selection of shade-tolerant grasses is fairly limited.  But there are some great grass-like plants that really broaden the range of fine-textured accent plants for woodland conditions.  One group of grass-like plants are the sedges of the genus Carex.  One of my favorites in the genus is Carex muskingumensis, or palm sedge.  

Palm sedge gets its name from the alternating whorls of leaves which resemble miniature palm trees. Native to the midwest ranging through Ontario south to Arkansas and Oklahoma, palm sedge is found in wooded wetland areas such as marshes, sedge meadows, and river banks.  It tends to be very hardy, USDA zones (2)3-9 and like many wetland plants it is fairly adaptable to a wide range of conditions.  While you can certainly grow it as a marginal aquatic in a pond, it is equally suited to average garden conditions as long as it receives some irrigation during hot and dry summer months.  

There are a few varieties available on the market, one of the best is 'Oehme'.  This variegated mutation was found by the late Wolfgang Oehme.  Emerging bright green in spring, the foliage quickly darkens to a medium green; except for the margins which turn a nice clear yellow.  This variety typically grows between 12" and 20" tall and 24" wide, though in fertile moist conditions it could grow larger.  With age it forms a dense mound of foliage.

'Oehme' has a medium-fine texture and blends well with broad-leaved plants like Hosta, Salvia koyamae, Heuchera, and Rodgersia.  A great combo would be a few Heuchera 'Dark Secret' or 'Stainless Steel' in front of 'Oehme'; behind that a large dark Hosta like 'Empress Wu' with Phlox stolonifera 'Sherwood Purple' creeping throughout to fill space and offer flower color.

I've had 'Oehme' in the garden for a few years and it's done a good job impressing me, but I've never taken any great pictures of it for some reason.  It's been moved a couple of times and after being divided a bit this season it's settling into a new spot quite well.  


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