Monday, December 8, 2008

basket grass . . . and a few words in defense of the ashe juniper

The Nolina texana (basket grass) is a superb choice for the Texas Hill Country. We have a couple mature specimens of this graceful plant on our land (see above!), and just adore its size and stature. And that's not to mention the fact that we have not laid a hand on the thing to keep it alive during the 100-year drought we are currently experiencing (meaning not that the drought is lasting 100 years, just that it is the type of drought you expect to encounter only once every hundred years). Here's what the geniuses over at Annie's Annuals have to say about it!:

Nolinas are members of the Agave family & native to the Southwestern U.S. Often very stunning & easy to grow, they’re heat & drought tolerant, evergreen, deer proof, not fussy about soil & hardy down to 10 degrees F. So why are they so little known? “Basket Grass” makes a very handsome landscaping plant, forming a striking clump to 4’ tall of gracefully arched, tough, evergreen leaves, ½” wide & 4’ long (without spines). In May-June, it sends up a dense, plume-like, blooming stalk that can reach 8’ tall. The flowers are tiny & cream-pink. Native to dry, rocky slopes, Nolina microcarpa needs no Summer water once established. The leaves were used by Native Americans for weaving baskets & mats.

For more info on our native Nolina, look here.

I also wanted to throw a bone to the often despised ashe juniper (otherwise known as cedar!). When we bought this home, our Realtor (who lives in town, not out here) went on and on about how we had to clear every last cedar because they "steal water." My eldest daughter's teacher (who does live out here) takes the same line on cedar. But I will fight for this plant because it is one of the few things that really does like it out here! An evergreen element of the landscape that is not always at death's doorstep??? And has berries for the birds? And provides cover for the rabbits? And prevents erosion? How bad can they be??? And I found some support for my feelings while perusing the Natural Gardener website. Check this out:

It is worth mentioning that the much-maligned "cedar" tree, more correctly known as juniper, does not always deserve its bad reputation. Yes, it causes many a sniffle and a miserable winter season for "cedar fever" sufferers, but according to Elizabeth McGreevy-Seiler, that is where its bad reputation should end. There are more than just a few myths that she is debunking in her studies of the Ashe juniper, or Juniperus ashei. For example, the Ashe juniper IS a native and it does NOT suck up water from the aquifer. Therefore, if you have the juniper in your yard, don’t let anyone convince you that this is a trash tree. It is a beautiful member of our native ecosystem, a home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, and an evergreen of interest in any landscape. For more information, you can read "Untwisting the Cedar," abbreviated writings from Ms. McGreevy-Seiler’s upcoming book on the juniper, at By the way, the symbolic meanings associated with juniper are succor and protection. These are not bad qualities to invite into our home and hearth.

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