Warm-season lawns in the winter and the Pines Garden Club of Fayetteville, NC

january-26-2009-fayetteville-076I have the happy job of speaking to garden clubs throughout the south.   This past Tuesday, I was fortunate to able to speak to the Pines Garden Club in Fayetteville, NC.  I had never been to Fayetteville before, but grew up in a military family, in the military town of  Norfolk, VA, so immediately I felt I would “know” the city, and I did.

I’ve never made a secret of loving to be with garden club ladies.  Their chatter is comforting and I think garden club food is yummy.  The warmth and hospitality of being invited into a host home to speak on a gardening topic is just down right fun and truly a cherry on the top of the many hat-wearing gardening jobs I do.   My trip to Fayetteville was no different.  Better actually.

These ladies made me feel so welcomed and said they loved my talk (no doubt, that was just their southern charm talking.)  They also arranged for me to see some gardens and treated me to lunch (thank you!)

WOW, it really doesn’t get any better than that.  We made a future date so I could return to see these and other gardens during their peak season, allowing me to shoot them for scouting purposes.  This way, if all works out,  more folks than me, will be able to enjoy a “visit” Fayetteville, if only via gardening magazines.

Today’s post is about one aspect of what I saw there; a perfect a follow-up of Tuesday’s post  Is this grass really greener?

There were many things about this beautiful city the struck me, but one in particular, was that the Fayetteville area was warm-season grass territory.

Fayetteville is zone 8; Raleigh is zone 7b.  What a difference a half a zone makes.  I’m told by the ladies at the garden club, Fayetteville is just too hot in the summer for fescue.

As a young women of 32 when I moved to Raleigh, I remember studying  a map of grasses best suited for our region.  There was a line drawn right through Raleigh.  Our area was referred to as a “transitional zone.”  To an optimists, this means both grasses do well here; to a pessimist, this means neither grass does well here.  Even so, year round, cool-season,  green grass became to transitional of choice.  Even to the extent when new developments are built and conveniences drawn, year-round green grass prevails and are mandated.  I know of no development that actually mandates warm seasoned grasses, but their might be one.  I can only assume this is not the case, or they would have been a popular news story during the drought on 2007.

Fayetteville’s grass choices were mainly zoysia, centipedegrass, and  Bermuda.  As such, yellow, straw-colored grasses were the norm – and they were BEAUTIFUL!

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No doubt, these nice ladies thought I was nuts to go so ga-ga over their grass.  Rightfully so, everyone in town had winter dormant grass, it was the norm.  I looked at these lawns and realized they provided an interesting contrast to the green shrubs and trees.  But as they ladies pointed out, the warm seasoned grasses give them 4 seasons.  They know they are in winter.

When I renovated Helen’s Haven, I went back and forth between my grass choices.  Environmentally, I knew the warm-seasoned grasses were the better choice; and yet I went with fescue.  My justification was that I would let it go dormant in the summer, and I do.  Why did I end up with fescue even  though I love the look of yellow grass in the winter – all the warm seasoned grasses  “run.”  My choice had nothing to do with the color green.  But to put in zosia grass would required me to also put in edging to keep it out of my various garden beds.  I wimped out.  Now after seeing these beautiful gardens in Fayetteville, I write that I wimped out with great regret.

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9 Comments »

  1. [...] See the original post here:  Warm-season lawns in the winter and the Pines Garden Club of Fayetteville, NC [...]

  2. tina said

    I graduated from high school in Fayetteville and know and love the city so much. It is so hot though! I shudder to even think of it! And the sandy soil was not very helpful for gardening. Glad you had a great time and will be looking forward to the pics.

    I am surprised you chose fescue for your lawn. I have it here but it is such a struggle and as we get warmer the fescues are not doing well. I hear there are so many improved varieties of warm season grasses that do not run as rampantly as what we are used to in the past. They are lovely.

  3. Les said

    This is a side of Fayetteville I didn’t know existed. Thanks!

  4. Tina you know, and Les, now you do too. Fayetteville was a lovely place to visit. When I go back to scout in June, I’ll check out the Cape Fear Botanical Garden. And Les, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find some woodies you will like;-)

  5. [...] I have the happy job of speaking to garden clubs throughout the south. This past Tuesday, I was fortunate to able to speak to the Pines Garden Club in Fayetteville, NC. Originally posted here: Warm-season lawns in the winter and the Pines Garden Club of … [...]

  6. I know some folks from Fayetteville and they’ll be proud you wrote this article. I’m glad it’s appearing on my Examiner page. I’ve got a live feed going on you.

  7. kk said

    Hi Helen,
    I live in warm season grass country,zone 8a, north-eastern NC. Ive come to love the dormant phase and look of warm season grasses. But you are right, when they are growing, they run, above ground AND below ground (bermuda and zoysia, centipede runs only above ground). So, you have to be vigilant if you dont have a fixed edge or barrier 4″-6″ deep seperating your lawn and beds. One other thing to consider is when warm season lawns go dormant, the winter weeds really stand out against the straw colored background. So a little weed prevention in late summer goes a long way to reduce the annual winter weeds.
    Think hard before you do anything drastic.PS. My favorite warmseason grass is Centipede. No underground runners, a very low nitrogen reguirement,
    and if you wait too long between cuttings, it doesnt scalp (turn brown because you are cutting down to the stems) like bermuda and zoysia.

  8. kk said

    Oh, I allmost forgot, Centipede grass is very drought tolerant, once established. However, Im not sure about its cold hardiness in your area. KK

  9. Jean said

    Centipede is my fav grass, too.
    Winter lawns can be overseeded with rye grass for a spectacular green that disappears as the warm season grasses return with warm weather.

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