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Give your garden a native rush

Native to the Central Valley, “Elk Blue” California rush offers an attractive accent in the low-water garden.
Native to the Central Valley, “Elk Blue” California rush offers an attractive accent in the low-water garden.

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “Life After Lawn” series – 45 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region and ideal for drought-tolerant landscapes.

Elk Blue California rush

Juncus patens “Elk Blue”

Size: Up to 2 feet tall; will spread slowly over time.

Bloom season: In summer, tiny coppery-brown flowers are held in rounded clusters at leaf tips.

Exposure: Full sun or partial shade.

Pruning needs: None; shabby foliage can be cut flush to the ground in late winter to encourage fresh growth.

Water needs: Low; once established, water deeply once or twice a month.

Snapshot: Rushes and other grasslike plants are valued for their narrow foliage and contrasting forms, and this variety is no exception. Totally vertical and almost tubular in shape, the blue-gray foliage will grow into a rounded clump. Elk Blue looks very attractive against pale blue succulents or apple-green ground covers. Native to the Central Valley, this species is fairly drought tolerant. It also can be grown in “rain gardens” and damp areas where its roots – or, in rainy winters, much of the whole plant – may be submerged for extended periods.

For more on “Life After Lawn,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.

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