13 May, 2010

Why My Front Yard Temporarily Looks Like Hell

Ipherion uniflorum,
Every year around this time, I stop cutting the grass in front of the house for a couple of weeks.  The yard looks pretty shabby but I don't mind, because the Spring Starflowers in the grass are in bloom.  They infest the front yard in little clumps; throughout most of the year, they look and behave just like grass - thin green leaves in clusters that continually need mowing to keep them trimmed.  But when the middle of May rolls around, the plant send out stalks about six to eight inches tall which blossom into small white flowers shaped like stars.  Despite the inconvenience of letting the neighbors tsk tsk at my lax lawn care, I love the little bastards and stop cutting the grass while they're flowering.

A couple years ago, when we first moved here, I did a little research about them.  Their botanical name is  Ipherion uniflorum, they're native to South America, and they grow from clumps of tiny little bulbs.  Apparently, many gardeners hate them because they spread so readily from their bedded areas.  Plant them as a border, and you'll soon find them all over the lawn (I think that's how they wound up all over the front yard - Maryanne's grandmother probably had them bordering the daffodils along the front porch.)  The only way to get rid of them - not that I ever would - is to dig up the clumps and thoroughly sift through the surrounding soil to remove all the bulbs.  Rototilling and reseeding the yard won't help a bit: the tiny bulbs slip between the tines of a rototiller and become spread out to form new clumps.  Tilling may actually make the invasion worse!

If I could find more of them, I'd plant them all through the yard in a heartbeat.  When their flowering season is over, the plants look like ordinary grass and they're relatively drought-resistant, staying green through dry spells much better than many kinds of grass.

And besides, I have all summer to keep the front yard trimmed.

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