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Plant low-growing fescue and sedge for ornamental grasses that thrive in multiple conditions

Clumps of greenish-blue fescue grasses grow out of soil and mulch.
Low-growing grasses like blue fescue can add movement and color to your yard and borders. Certain grasses also thrive in shady or even wet conditions.

Planting some low-growing grasses can add movement and color to your yard and garden. These plants can also be planted in places where you might have traditionally chosen to lay down a layer of mulch.

When we picture ornamental grasses, we might first think of the tall ones with seed heads that blow in the breeze, or the long stems with feathery tops.

Those are certainly beautiful grasses that add movement and color to a garden space, but a whole other group of ornamental grasses are low-growing and perfect for places with wetter soil or shade.

And if you've been meaning to move away from using layers of bark mulch, try these grasses to create a greenscape underneath perennials, trees and shrubs. They can also be great to plant in problem areas that are difficult to reach with your mower or even places where things tend not to grow.

Grasses, fescues and sedges

Japanese forest grass is a bunching grass that grows 12 to 18 inches tall. This type has kind of a yellow-green color to the leaf and can brighten up a partly shaded spot. Another bonus is that Japanese forest grass turns kind a reddish color in the fall and it's hardy to Zone 5.

There are native plants known as blue-eyed grasses that are not truly grasses and are hardy to Zone 4. These grow 12 to 18 inches tall and like well-drained, moist soil. This type grows small white blossoms that butterflies like.

Then, there are the blue fescues, like Elijah Blue that grows 12 inches tall with a steel blue coloring. This one prefers a well-drained soil and doesn't mind full sun.

Low-growing ornamental grasses from the carex genus, known as sedges, are also are great choices. Sedges can grow in moist or dry soil and grow up to 12 inches tall. A variegated version called, Ever Gold, grows with chartreuse colored blades.

Some sedges are spreading, which works well to fill in between plants, too, like the one called Pennsylvania sedge. This one is hardy to Zone 4 and likes a moist and shady area.

A quesion about an eggplant plant that didn't produce many fruits

Q: This was my first year trying to grow graffiti eggplant. I started them as seeds inside but then in a new raised bed just after Memorial Day. I got one fruit in August but the smaller plant stopped producing flowers ... What did I do wrong? - Alison, in Hyde Park

A: It's been a wet summer and eggplants love hot, dry conditions. Sometimes, the best method to grow eggplants in our climate is in raised beds where they'll get a little more warmth in the soil or to grow eggplant in containers.

If you plant them in containers, put them in a full-sun location and keep them well-watered, but make sure that they have warm soil.

Try some of the smaller fruit varieties, like Fairy Tale, that have long, thin fruits and tend to produce more eggplants quicker.

A listener question about how and when to move peony plants

Q: I have six white peonies at a gravestone in Essex Junction. The last couple of years, the peonies haven't been spectacular. Can I take the bulbs out of the ground and somehow rejuvenate them in the soil? - Gary, Essex Junction

A: This is a good time to transplant peonies, mostly because it's been a mild fall. First, find a full-sun location to move them to and have holes already dug.

Next, dig up the peonies, getting as much of the root system as you can. You might see some of the roots actually have divisions on them that you can just tease away to create some new plants. Then move the big clump into its new hole. It's really important to not plant the crown below two inches deep in the hole; doing so will deter the peony from flowering.

Keep the peony plant well-watered this fall right into November, even when all the foliage is gone. The roots are still growing and will appreciate the continued watering. And hopefully next year, your peony will blossom again.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.