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    « An artist, a neurosurgeon and a garden designer walk into a bar… | Main | If it walks like a weed and it talks like a weed »


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    Brown grass in the winter is definitely the hair in the soup. All else sounds pretty terrific.

    Are you saying my poetic description of California won't sway lawn loving suburbanites?

    Shirley Bovshow "Edenmaker"

    Welcome to the adventure of UC Verde lawn testing! It's ideal that you started your lawn during the hot weather-your lawn may knit together faster than mine. Although it is very hot in Los Angeles these days, I started my UC lawn during the weeks of "June Gloom." Progressing at a good pace.

    I'll be checking your progress.
    Shirley Bovshow

    I think you're right about the heat. Isn't it great that the kind of weather that is usually a plant killer is actually good for this particular grass? I'm hoping mine fills in as quickly as Tom's, but the weather is cooling off around here so we'll see.


    Dang, I forgot to ask you for your Carex pansa plugs, discarded without so much as a by-your-leave. Sigh...

    With our marine influence, I doubt that the UCVG would work here in Point Richmond, but I'm very interested in following your progress!

    I think I could adjust to the winter browns, given all the positives... So this Buchloe was developed from native bunchgrasses? Does this mean that our golden hills are now backwards? They were once golden in winter and green in summer? Curious, and yet another reason why I am beginning to think of California as the "upside-down" state. Real estate, budgets, grasses...

    I love your upside down reasoning! Perhaps my description was a bit jumbled - and FYI, my front yard will only have the golden part, no majestic oaks in my tiny patch.

    UC Verde appears to work fine in a marine climate, it just takes longer to fill in. The rep from Florasource told me there is a test going on there right now. Even the plugs in the shade are spreading, but much more slowly.

    Fred Hoffman

    UC Verde grass is a buffalo grass. Does it also have the inherent buffalo grass problems of shade intolerance and foot traffic intolerance? More info:


    What are your watering expectations for your inland sunny spot of UC Verde? I am testing a hilly meadow of Red Fescue (propogated from local seed by Watershed Nursery in Richmond) that seems to be making it through the inland heat (inland Marin County) beautifully without any water this summer, although we do get some late afternoon shade.

    Susan (garden chick)

    Farmer Fred & Tigerlily
    I'm abandoning my usual reply format as your questions deserve a longer reesponse.

    My understanding is it's not ideal in the shade. Mike from Florasource showed me some photos of a garden in Berkeley where the homeowner is doing NOTHING for the grass (I amended with organic compost plus my ground is fairly loose anyway due to my constant habit of ripping things out and replanting.) The portions planted in the sun looked pretty good but there was a pronounced drop-off in vigor in the shade. My yard is in sun from about 9 - 3.

    I asked my Master Gardener coordinator what she knew about the grass, and she passed on some informal thoughts from UC Davis. The response was less enthusiastic, i.e. that it takes longer than a few months to fill in, needs more water to look good and doesn't take foot traffic well. But I'm not sure how many tests they've done and where they've tested - I suspect in cooler climates. One of the goals of the GrassRoots program is to have people try it out in multiple parts of California to see where it works and where it doesn't.

    Regarding foot traffic, Mike said you can't play football on it, but normal kid and pet play is not a problem.

    Regarding water, I am watering mine once a day right now to get it established but next year will set my ET controller to low. Tom is using Netafim (subsurface irrigation) for his lawn that was installed in May and reports he is watering once a week with lowest Netafim emitters (.2gal at 18” apart) which at the low end of the range I gave.

    So, there is definitely some conflicting data about this grass, which is why I'm looking forward to seeing the results of my own test as well as other's. UC Davis seems more enthusiastic about Fescue, Tigerlily, so it sounds like you made a good choice. I doubt it would do as well in the hotter inland climates I design for.

    Thanks for the questions; this has been a good learning experience for me so far.


    Awesome! I knew you'd you'd be up for a few cut fingers dabbling with the razor sharp edge of innovation.

    I plan on installing a good sized area with UC Verde in the central valley in the next few months and irrigating it with some super cool MP Rotators.

    If in doubt - try it out on your relatives first!

    Looking forward to swapping stories.

    The central valley sounds perfect for this grass. One of my Orinda clients has also decided to go with UC Verde instead of traditional lawn - in fact, they may be installing this week. If the weather stays hot it might even be filled in by September or October. We're also using MP Rotators instead of netafim. Great minds thinking alike?


    I read about UC Verde and other low-water grasses in High County Garden's catalog and was intrigued. My climate would require something different, but I plan to keep my eyes out. When we get all the beds put in and the lawn shrinks, I hope to replace it with a low-water, low-mow type of grass. And the low-allergy thing would definitely be a plus. I figured out this year that our lawn is mostly weedy annual bluegrass, which goes to seed annually at a short height, so the mower doesn't cut off the seed heads like it would with taller perennial bluegrass. Since hubby doesn't get around to mowing every week, we've had some crazy grass pollen levels a few times. Sneeze. Anyway, I'll be interested to hear more about your experience.

    Wen you're ready to seriously look at turf grass alternatives, you will probably have more options due to your cooler climate. It can get so hot in this part of East Bay that a lot of plants rated for full sun actually burn if not given a little afternoon shade here. That's one of the reasons I'm enthusiastic about this grass, despite the winter dormancy - it actually likes the heat.


    Actually, Susan, we do have problems with 'full sun' plants burning around here because our humidity isn't as high as some places. But I don't know about grasses. Anyhow, that project is a long way off. But I'm still plotting to get our front porch remodel done next spring - fingers crossed - thanks again!

    Pam Kersting

    Good luck! I think we all are trying to replace the infamous grass lawn! Love your blog and really love your plant combinations!

    Thanks, Pam. You're right about the desire to come up with alternatives for the lawn. Visiting blogs all over the country (and world) has really opened my eyes up to the fact that while others might not share the water shortage issues we have in California, people everywhere are concerned with watershed preservation, chemicals, less debris to landfills and the creation of more regionally appropriate gardens. All of these things are better accomplished with less lawn.

    And thanks for the kind words on plant combos! Hoping to get out to photograph some gardens in another month or two when the weather cools down. Some of the gardens I design are at their best in late summer when the perennials are still hanging on and the grasses are at their full potential.


    I'm looking forward to seeing how the project progresses. The sedge lawns I've seen haven't been as turf-like as this grass promises to be. If I can't talk the husband out of the sad little under-watered brown and green patchwork of Saint Augustine that we call a lawn, something like this might be a better alternative.

    I agree about the sedges. You can mow them, but they don't feel like a lawn when you walk on them and they're a little clumpy. I think they work best when they're left unmowed to form a meadow effect. A big part of detemining the overall success of the UC Verde will be to see how effective it is at weed suppression once it's grown in.


    I was just wondering how the Carex Pansa worked out and why you decided to replace it w/ Buffalo grass?

    Hi Jeannine. The Carex pansa was not doing well, bu I'm not really sure why. I planted it last October, so did not give it a full year, but by early July it had barely grown and was still 1/2 brown. I asked the rep from Florasource what he thought the problem was and he had no idea, either, as it was well suited to the cultural conditions.

    I actually put the Pansa in on a whim when I received some pots for free. One of the reasons I was willing to abandon it was because I really like it best in its natural, unmowed state, and I think it would have been too much for my small front yard.

    wayne stratz

    very cool. hope it catches on with the masses. you do have masses out there, right?

    Lots and lots of masses, with way too much lawn. Unfortunately, my guess is that it will catch on slowly, due to the winter dormancy issue. We Californians have come to view year round greenery and flowers as a guaranteed entitlement, regardless of the environmental price.

    Barbara Eisenstein

    One of the most common questions I get is what native (or just low water use) plant is a good grass-alternative for lawns. I usually answer that it seems reasonable to me to minimize the lawn area, water carefully and properly so that every drop counts, and then go with St. Augustine or some other fairly low water need "manufactured" green grass plant. People who have used Carex pansa or C. praegracilis, still need to use a good amount of water and it isn't very walkable - and as you note, not a great choice for hot, inland places. The buffalo grass/blue gramma grass combo that I have seen was very sparse, didn't take traffic real well and required labor intensive weeding. I will follow your progress with great interest since I'd love to be able to suggest something else. Good luck!

    Thanks for visiting, Barbara. When I first heard all the hype on Carex pansa last year, it sounded wonderful - low water, mowable, foot traffic, etc. Like you, I've since come to realize it's a mixed bag. UC Verde may turn out to be the same, but experimenting with something yourself, or hearing first hand reports from a gardener with similar cultural conditions is the best way to narrow down what works. Besides my own experiment, I'm following several other blogs on this subject as well.

    Alice Joyce

    I just reviewed John Greenlee's new book The American Meadow Garden, coming out in Fall 09.
    I think it's going to be a bible for pros and for gardeners looking to get rid of their traditional lawns!

    I knew it was coming out soon - lucky you with an advance copy!

    Lazy Gardens

    I'm very happy with UC Verde as a backyard play lawn area.

    Compared to Bermuda, it's requiring 60-70% less water and a lot less mowing. Also, because the blades are more upright than Bermuda, when you do mow, you don't get that dead "scalped" look.

    I don't know how long it will stay green in Phoenix, but I don't care if the grass is brown in the winter, because that's ski season.

    Hi LG, I was just reading your latest post. I can live with the dormant winter, in part because my lawn is tidy, but I think this will be the biggest sticking point for most of my clients. Sadly, we've come to see year round perfect green lawns as our right here in California. I'll be posting on week 7 in a few days if you want to stop by to see updated photos.

    Lazy Gardens

    Garden Chick -
    Definitely will check to see how it's doing. Knowing what to expect from the different areas is important. I always take the "full sun" part of a plant description with a grain of salt because full ARIZONA sun isn't the same as fill Orinda or Berkeley sun.

    I got "buffa-whut" responses from landscape contractors in Phoenix.

    LG, I was planning on posting a follow-up this week, but got side tracked by the meme post. Timing and temp seem critical - to your point you will be surprised when you see how far my Concord lawn has come along vs. my Orinda client who is only a month behind me

    Johnny Greenthumb

    That looks good but it would be useful to have a grass like this that doesn't need such a warm climate. Can't those boffins down at UC create a grass that could do that?

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