I hate watering the grass, an activity I put on an intellectual par with working in a toll booth. Water is also expensive where I live and every time I turn on the hose, I imagine dimes and nickels flowing out of the other end. That's why I respect -- nay, cherish -- a grass that never needs watering. Blue fescue.I know, I know. When you hear the word "fescue," you automatically think of a cool-weather lawn grass called tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) that needs lots of water. But blue fescue (Festuca glauca) is a totally different animal. It forms a mounding clump 6 to 12 inches tall and wide. Its foliage is blue, not green, and stays that way year-round. And it likes dry soil. In fact, the easiest way to kill it is by watering it too much.
In order to thrive, blue fescue needs just two things -- sun and good drainage. Soil pH doesn't matter. Soil type doesn't matter, as long as it doesn't stay wet. Salt air doesn't matter. Summer heat and drought? Fugdeddaboutit.
There are several improved forms of blue fescue out there, but Grumpy is partial to one called 'Elijah Blue' for two reasons. First, it forms a very neat, 8-inch clump of intense silvery-blue foliage. Second, I just can't resist any plant named for the offspring of Cher and Gregg Allman.
'Elijah Blue' has several nice uses in the garden. It's fantastic in a container, especially when combined with coarse-textured plants that need little water, such as sedum, agave, hens-and-chicks, and other succulents. It's a great little plant for tucking into the niches of a rock garden or stacked stone wall. You can also mass it in the foreground of a sunny border. It's available at most garden centers, but you can also order it by mail from Big Dipper Farm.
Unfortunately, 'Elijah Blue' won't grow everywhere. It's not a good choice for the Gulf Coast and Florida, because it doesn't like the unrelenting humidity and torrential summer rains. But north of there, it's fine. It's cold-hardy to Canada. The only pest I've seen bothering it is Ketchup, my psychotic cat, who likes to chew on the leaves. He won't eat steak, but he'll eat blue fescue. At least, he doesn't put ketchup on it.
Coming Up Next: Mexican petunia