DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

Plant of the Month: California Carex

If you love the look of a lush green yard, look no further than California Field Sedge (Carex praegracilis). You’ve seen this beautiful grass or its cousins, perhaps without realizing it, dotting gardens throughout the Central Coast, contributing fresh, clean lines and structure.

Growth to its full height, for that truly native look, Carex praegracilis will reach around 18″. With heavy foot traffic, or mown biannually (only!), your native grass can be kept at a comfortable 4-6″, making it a beautiful place for friends to take an afternoon stroll or a playground for young feet or four-legged friends.

Plant 2″ praegracilis plugs 6-8″ apart. Contrast its soft texture with a meandering path made of edgy flagstone or smooth cobble.


A little shorter, a little bluer, and just as soft, is praegracilis’s Carex European cousin, Carex glauca. While not native to California, we love the glauca’s calming effect on the landscape, echoing the neighboring Pacific and calming the mind. The glauca is more compact, and more tolerant of foot traffic. In fact, gardeners throughout the county use it successfully in their plantings but also as their driveways. Replace your concrete with glauca and bring a grassy ocean to your doorstep. Plant either glauca or praegracilis to rid yourself of the heftier water bill that comes hand-in-hand with typical lawn grass.

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Reimagine Your Lawn!

One of our favorite resources at Gardens by Gabriel is Native Sons Nursery in Arroyo Grande. Their plant material and their crew are oriented toward sustainability–and we’re oriented toward them!

A recent publication, Reimagining the California Lawn, co-written by Native Sons owner and plant mogul David Fross, educates the California garden owner about practical ways to replace their lawn with beautiful water-wise alternatives.

Explore plants that are native to California, as well as those native to our Mediterranean counterparts within its pages.

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Why do leaves look so vibrant after a rain?

Rainwater is naturally distilled through evaporation prior to cloud formation, and is thus one of our purest sources of water. It also contains small doses of fertilizer and is considered ‘soft’ because of its lack of calcium and magnesium. Soft water is easier for plants to absorb the nutrients from, so after a rain everything from creeping grasses to towering redwoods takes on a healthy, vibrant glow.

This abundance of soft, nutrient-rich water, coupled with the cooler weather conditions, makes the rainy season an ideal time for planting. In the summertime plants undergo transplant shock once they’re put in the ground. New roots dry out easily in the heat, and lack of water contributes to growth-stunting stress. The climate from late fall through spring, however, is a low-stress environment for new roots and shoots to take hold.



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