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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 18, 2013

From: Sparta, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass for a Miniature Garden
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Please let me know what kind of grass is nice and short and tight for a miniature garden in a wooden box. I want to grow this grass in the box and I also want to know if I need to drill holes in the bottom of the wooden box for drainage. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Many people who create bonsai, penjing (Chinese miniature landscapes) or garden railroads that require plants to be of a scale that looks appropriate use moss or dwarf Carex sp. (miniature sedges) to simulate grass-like groundcovers. There aren't any grasses that will stay short and dense enough to be in scale for most projects.

There are some native sedges that look like grass such as Carex pensylvania, but look at the heights to make sure they are in scale. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's website has 217 entries for native Carex (sedges), 27 that are under 1 ft. To view these, visit the Plant Database, enter Carex and select the 0-1 ft height category. You might like to look at the Juncus and Sagina (pearlworts) as well. Juncus ambiguus is under 1 ft in height and has a grasslike appearance.  

Some non-natives that have been used to simulate grass are Scleranthus uniflorus, Irish or scotch moss (Sagina subulata), or Carex berggrenii.

To answer your drainage question, yes you need to drill holes for drainage. Your plants will grow much better with adequate soil drainage. For some tips on planting a miniature garden visit The Mini Garden Guru's website. And if you are going to use any mosses, take a look at George Schenk's book on moss gardening.

 

From the Image Gallery


Poverty rush
Juncus tenuis

Cherokee sedge
Carex cherokeensis

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