Monday, July 13, 2015

It’s What I Have Been Looking for BUT Will It Work and Will I be Happy? by Ann Hector

As co-presidents of the Columbine Garden Club of Idaho Springs, my friend, Kris, and I are always looking for program ideas for our monthly club meetings.  In the spring, our weekends are usually filled taking short classes at various nurseries in and around Denver. 
One weekend class that really peaked our interest was presented by Kelly Grummons, Chief  Horticulturist at Timberline Gardens.   (As you may have heard, Timberline will be closing in the fall of this year – so sad!)  The subject of the class was “Growing African Dogtooth Grass.”  It sounded intriguing!  Lawns, grass, etc. are generally not subjects that our members request more information on, but from the description of the class, I thought this new variety of grass might be a topic the members would be interested in.
The class was well attended, in fact, one had to register ahead of time in order to get a seat.  Kelly went over how he had developed the grass and all the advantages of this particular variety.  About halfway through the presentation we learned that it had not been tested above 7500 feet.  I thought, “So what!”  I remembered reading about how one person can grow a plant and another person cannot grow the same plant even when the playing field appeared to be equal.  And so, we wanted to know more –
Kelly’s interest in this grass began in the early ‘80s with Denver Botanic Gardens Panayoti Kelaidis and Jim Borland.  Some testing had been done with unsuccessful results.  Kelly became aware of it in 1989.  Although his first attempts were also unsuccessful, he unexpectedly saw promise after dumping it in a compost heap.  For several years it grew in road base, and he further tried it in new locations where it continued to grow.  Over the years, his dog, Mojo, also did his part in testing the grass by doing what a dog does best!  Meanwhile the grass continued to thrive with a bright green color while needing much, much less water than other low-water grasses.
Besides being very drought tolerant and very resistant to dog urine, it does not green up until early June and is not green after October.  So why in the world wouldn’t this grass work above 7500 feet? 
With all these facts in mind, that is why I chose to write about this unique grass in a mountain gardening blog.  It fits so many of our requirements for plant life to survive.  Again, it is very drought resistant and very resistant to dog urine.  (I have a female dog and many brown spots!) It is green from June to October (as is the rest of my garden!)  Furthermore, it recovers from excessive foot traffic quickly and is not fussy about soil (Hooray – that would work for me also).  Honeybees love the pollen the grass produces (I’m very much into pollinators and saving the bees and butterflies!)
There are precautions to be considered, however, as Tony Koski, CSU Extension Turf Specialist, wrote about in a blog entitled “Dog Tuff Grass: A New Turf Species?” dated April 10, 2015.  With these precautions in mind and while I am aware that it is not the “ideal” grass, I am thinking of trying it next spring in a small plot.  I’ll let you know of my results.
Ann Hector
Clear Creek County Master Gardener Apprentice

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