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Plant of the Month

Black Mondo Grass Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Location: Grid T2 on the west edge of the Hosta Walk, towards the bottom end

I was a little nervous about planting Black Mondo Grass because it is often listed as only hardy to zone 6, but it has done very well for us. That may be because we are now considered zone 6 on the most recent map; or, it may be that others are finding it hardier than expected, as I now often see it listed as hardy to zone 5.

Black Mondo Grass, <em>Ophiopogon planiscapus</em> 'Nigresecens' in front of Hosta 'Empress Wu' 10-21-15
Black Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigresecens’ in front of Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ 10-21-15

Truly black plants are hard to find, but this comes very close. The foliage is usually described as 'semi-evergreen' which translates to 'often looks ratty and ugly in spring until the new foliage emerges'. We planted this strip in 2011 and it has now filled in nicely. It is a little bit slow to establish and spread, but the good side of that is that it is not so aggressive that it spreads into places you don’t want it.

Black Mondo Grass, <em>Ophiopogon planiscapus</em> 'Nigresecens' 10-21-15
Black Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigresecens' 10-21-15

I think the color is best right now, warm days and cool nights seem to intensify the dark color. We will have plants available for sale at the Arboretum Associates plant sale, scheduled for June 4, 2016.

Monthly Projects

One of the transitions that happens every fall is when the irrigation in the Arboretum is shut down for the year. The permit that the University has from the state allows us to water with the re-claimed water from May 1 until November 1; but, many years we get enough rainfall (or freezing temperatures begin) that we are able to shut down sooner than that. This year we have been watering most of the month of October, but the system was shut down on the 21st of October. Shutting down our system involves removing batteries from all 74 of the wireless controllers, gathering up hoses and sprinklers, draining the system and finally using a large air compressor to blow out the 138 zones.

Fall color on the Asian Grapes, <em>Vitis amurensis</em> 10-21-15
Fall color on the Asian Grapes, Vitis amurensis 10-21-15

The other major focus for the fall is clean up. One big component of that is mulching as many of the leaves that fall as possible. We use both of our large, commercial lawn mowers to accomplish this. The leaves are chopped and fall back into the turf, eventually breaking down and adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil. That mulching process is one of the reasons we are able to maintain deep green grass with no added chemical fertilizers.

Three Flowered Maple, <em>Acer triflorum</em> 10-2-15
Three Flowered Maple, Acer triflorum 10-2-15

Upcoming Events

Arboretum Associates Annual Plant Sale
Saturday, June 4, 9 am - 12:00 pm
Ice Rink, Latah County Fairgrounds

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