Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Snowy Woodrush

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So many ornamental grasses peak in Summer and Fall—and thank goodness they do, at a time any garden welcomes an extra flourish.  Snowy woodrush peaks when ornamental grasses in full fettle are just as welcome:  Spring. 

 

Luzula nivea is a restrained tussock of narrow grassy leaves, and might otherwise look like a two-foot clump of lawn grass that has suddenly colonized your shade garden.  And because Spring is the season when you're most likely to be on top of your weeding, it's all the more helpful that Luzula flowers promptly, and with brightness that no flowers of lawn grass could ever dream of:  The small dense heads of Luzula flowers are pure white.  Not buff or tan, or even cream.  White. 

 

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Their brightness is especially noticeable in the part or even full shade that Luzula welcomes.

 

 

Here's how to grow this exceptional and shade-loving ornamental grass:

 

Latin Name

Luzula nivea

Common Name

Snowy woodrush

Family

Juncaceae, the Rush family.

What kind of plant is it

Mounding perennial grass.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 9. 

Habit

Mounding.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

A clump two feet tall, with foliage arching to three feet across.  Much narrower at the base.

Texture

Graceful and loose.

Grown for

its flowers.  Stems are tipped with clusters of small white flowers, which show up well against the narrow green foliage, and appear doubly bright in the shade that Luzula prefers. 

 

its early flowering.  Luzula clumps are full size and in flower when most other grasses are just waking up. 

 

its shade tolerance.  So many ornamental grasses prefer full sun that any addition to the repertoire of shade-lovers is always welcome.  Further, so many shade-garden grasses are compact—think Hakonechloa, Carex, and most other Luzula—that at two feet, L. nivea is one of the biggies.  Most of those other shady grasses are dense, too, and the airy and thin-leaved habit of L. nivea is a notable exception. 

Flowering season

Mid-Spring:  May here in Rhode Island.

Color combinations

The green leaves and white flowers of Luzula nivea go with everything.

Partner plants

The narrow and relaxed tuffets of Luzula foliage provide excellent contrast to the large foliage of shade-garden favorites such as hostas, hellebores, ligularias, wood poppies, broadleaved evergreens, and wider-leaflet forms of ferns, such as cinnamon (Matteuccia), Christmas (Polystichum), maidenhair (Adiantum), sensitive (Onoclea), and royal (Osmunda).  It would be repetitive alongside really "ferny-leaved" ones such as lady fern (Athryium).   

Where to use it in your garden

Luzula works well when planted in the shade garden as individual clumps amid contrasting foliage.  It can also be massed as a groundcover under high shade.  It also thrives near the feet of upright and often "bare-ankled" cultivars of Enkianthus, Acer, Rhododendron, and Gingko, which usually cast considerable shade, especially on their north sides.

 

Because Luzula is comfortable in full sun when there's sufficient moisture, it works well as a groundcover under pollarded trees.  With the remaining moisture from Winter, and the addition of Spring rains, the ground under pollards can be wet in Spring even though the sunlight that reaches it is full because of the Spring pollarding.  Before that moisture ebbs, and Summer heat and sun is at its most intense, the new growth of the pollard will have cast the Luzula into welcome shade.  My clumps of Luzula nivea thrive in the shade of pollards of Salix alba 'Sericea' and Acer negundo 'Flamingo'

Culture

Part to full shade in average to good soil.  More sun—even full sun—if soil moisture is sufficient.

How to handle it: The Basics

As is typical for ornamental grasses, Luzula should be planted in Spring.  Plants do not appreciate drought, especially when establishing.  When established in shade, they are self-sufficient with average soil and moisture.  Cut clumps to the ground in early Spring, before growth resumes; the clumps wake up so early that a few minutes of mild weather in late Winter might be the better opportunity.  Clumps don't need division to maintain fullness. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

If your soil remains moist in Summer, Luzula will tolerate full sun.   

 

Quirks or special cases

Nope.

 

Downsides

I can't think of one.  In my experience, Luzula is strictly on the up and up.   

Variants

There are about eighty species in the wood-rush family.  They all do best with adequate moisture and partial or even full shade, some are tolerant of drier conditions.  Luzula sylvatica is the largest, forming tuffets of broader leaves topped by fluffy umbels of brown seeds.  The leaves of L. sylvatica 'Marginata' have a discreetly-showy edge of cream; those of L. sylvatica 'Aurea' are gold year-round, and brightest in cool weather.  The dense evergreen foliage of L. nivea 'Ruby Stiletto' is burgundy in cool weather.  L. multiflora is a diminutive native of eastern North America, with evergreen foliage and short plumes of chestnut-colored flowers.  To my knowledge, L. nivea is the only species whose flowers are white. 

 

All of them can form an effective groundcover when closely planted.  For that reason alone, I'm way overdue to expand the presence of Luzula in my own gardens beyond L. nivea

 

Availability

On-line and at retailers.

Propagation

By seed, and by division of the clumps in Spring. 

Native habitat

Luzula nivea is native to Europe.

 
 
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