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Rush varieties earn top awards in 2008
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Rush varieties are rounding out this year's Mississippi Medallion winners that are all tough-as-nails and offer impressive design features in flower borders and mixed containers.
Rush joins previously announced winners Diamond frost euphorbia and the equally tough All Around Purple gomphrena. Rush will enhance your landscape like few other plants. You will find several rush varieties at local garden centers. They all promise to give a dark green, grassy, vertical element in landscapes and mixed containers.
Botanically speaking, they are called Juncus. The word comes from Latin and refers to its ability to be tied or joined together. Juncus effusus is called soft rush, and it is perennial in zones 4-10. When you see this plant from a distance, you would swear it was stiff and pointy and might even cause bodily harm if you fell on it. This is simply not the case. When you touch it, you will notice it is indeed soft to the touch.
Juncus effusus is native, but two other varieties, Quartz Creek and Big Twister, are capturing the most attention in the market. They will reach about 2 feet tall and both have garnered a lot of attention in plant trials at Mississippi State University's Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs. What sets Big Twister apart is that it grows in a cork-screw spiral. This allows it to serve as a thriller plant in medium-sized mixed containers.
Juncus inflexus, sometimes called meadow rush or hard rush, is cold-hardy from zones 5-9. It is slightly taller than Juncus effusus, reaching around 3 feet high. The variety Blue Arrows is the one you will want to look for. True to its name, the foliage gives a deep blue-green, upright, grassy look.
Also shop for Juncus pallidus, or giant rush. This one is ideal as the thriller plant in large containers and can reach 4 feet in height. The variety to look for is Javelin. Javelin is cold-hardy from zone 7-10, which means all of Mississippi can grow the plant. It offers a unique straw color in the winter, which adds to its appeal.
You may have seen rush growing in boggy conditions and even in water. For this reason, they are great water garden plants and top-of-the-list for people with dry creek beds that tend to be a little less dry during rainy periods.
I have mentioned they work great in containers, which also means these varieties work in upland soil locations. In Crystal Springs, we plant everything in raised beds for good drainage. The juncus has done exceedingly well.
Loosen soil and provide a good environment for root expansion. These rush varieties will make themselves at home and return for years to come.
Look for the Mississippi Medallion point-of-sale material near each of the rush varieties and the other 2008 winners at your favorite garden center.