Carex comans 'Bronze' pruning?

donn_(7b-8a)March 25, 2007

Has anyone else noticed how little information is available on Carex? I hope Darke's new book addresses this issue.

Anyway, I started 4 clumps of C. comans 'Bronze' from seed last year. 3 were planted in the ground, and one was wintered over in a 1-gallon pot, buried in the top of the compost bin:

You can just see in the photo, the line of demarcation between the reddish-bronze color of the blades on the lower 2/3's, compared to the dry looking tan of the ends. It shows up a little better in this photo:

Darke speaks only to Carex in general. He says evergreen or semi-evergreen species are "best cut back on occasional years, to remove old or winter-dessicated foliage."

Greenlee says, of C. comans specifically; "When cutting back, leave 3-4" above the crown, as plants dislike a close shearing."

Leaving 3-4" above the crown will eliminate the tan dry-looking ends of the foliage, but my question is whether or not those trimmed blades will continue to grow, with their squared-off ends, or will they be overtaken by new foliage?

I'm starting several more plants this year, so I can afford to experiment. I'm thinking about cutting back the one potted plant, and leaving the 3 in-ground plants alone this year.

Any experience trimming Carex comans, in any color?

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blackswamp_girl(6a NEOhio)

Well... I will have some experience after this year. I wasn't sure what to do with my 'Frosted Curls' and noticed the same thing you did: The top 2/3 of the plant were pretty dry/crispy, while the lower part seemed okay.

One I cut back very hard (probably too hard, after reading your post), one I cut back about halfway, and one I left alone. So I'll let you know in a month or so how well they rebound... or not. :(

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 12:28AM
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I'll jump in with questions too. My clumps are 3 years old and overwhelming the bed they share with daffodils and coriopsis. I'd read somewhere to leave carex foliage alone, but they are totally shaggy. I love the way they look with snow on in the winter, but now I would like a fresher look. Will they get new blades, or will the old keep coming? should the clumps be divided? thanx

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 1:37PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Ok, I can only speak from experience in my zone.

I grow 4 different bronze Carex spp. All but one benefits from cutting back. I usually trim mine back to about 4 inches for the best results. I think the trick is to NOT trim them back to early in the season. As you can see in Donn's photo - there is a dried off portion & a nice fresh looking portion. Cut it back & expose the nice fresh part too early, have a late really cold period and .... opps!
Every so often I loose one but I think this is because they are not long-lived in my zone. Since I grow quite a few I can afford to experiment. Those I don't cut back usually do quite poorly and look dreadful.

Oh yeah, the one that doesn't benefit from cutting back?? Carex buchananii. A little tidying up is about all it seems to tolerate.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 10:52PM
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I'm going to wait until May to prune the potted C. comans. That'll be (hopefully) safe from any cold snaps.

I've read a lot of the NZ Carex varieties are short-lived, so I plan to build my inventory, and see if early division can provide a continuous supply. I love the look, especially of the red/bronze varieties. I plan to try more of the from-seed varieties as well. C. comans was pretty easy to start from seed, and I expect some of my plants will set some seed this year, so I can stop buying it.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 7:50AM
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blackswamp_girl(6a NEOhio)

Achnatherum, I'm glad you mentioned that about carex buchanii. I have so far resisted pruning mine and will continue to do so. That one did much better for me than the c. comans did anyway... it is said to tolerate drier soils better, and I am finding that to be pretty true.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 10:37PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

I have been thinking about your Carex comans. I don't think I would wait until May in your zone. A few frosty days with temps 1 or 2 degrees below zero won't hurt it - You really want to have it cut back just before / or just as its starts to make some vigorous growth.

I will probably cut mine back around the beginning of May.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 11:56AM
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Well, it'll have to wait a couple of days. It's blowing and raining like stink out there right now. We've got a whopper of a nor'easter going on.

I looked at them yesterday, and there doesn't seem to be any new growth yet.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:51PM
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I cut back the guinea-pig potted C. comans 'Bronze' this morning. The three in-ground copies will be left alone this year.

Time will tell.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 11:26AM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

I cut back all my 'ever-brown' carex yesterday. They were starting to put on new growth.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 1:24PM
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