Tall vs. California Fescue

Which Fescue creates the fairest rough?


Golf courses throughout southern California use Festuca arundinacea in the roughs alongside fairways striving for the “Augusta look.”  For years, we prized and emulated Georgia’s verdere hoping to turn our neighbors green with envy!  But what if we stopped chasing Georgia’s look and learned to prize the authentic look of Los Angeles?  Let’s see what is  on the other side of the fence.

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Festuca Arundinacea, Tall Fescue

Prized for its monochromatic, velvety green, Tall fescue, Festuca arundinacea,  is symbolic of health and wealth in its native Europe.  Once it lands in Los Angeles, it simply takes wealth to keep it healthy!  Here are some things to consider before planting tall fescue:
  • While more heat tolerant, tall fescue actually needs more water than the Bermuda grass used at Augusta.  It may need as much as two waterings a day to establish in high heat areas!
  • California’s drought brings out tall fescue’s true colors – and they are not all shades of green!  Weeds readily volunteer in high water areas, and keeping the brown at bay requires copious amounts of irrigated water even in well-established areas.
  • Tall fescue handles foot traffic well in winter, spring and fall but loses its resilience in the heat of summer, just as golfers hit the courses.
If you love a traditional lawn aesthetic, don’t be afraid to hop the fence!  The grass truly is much more interesting on the other side.


Festuca Californica, California Fescue

A bunchgrass native to several regions throughout California and Oregon, California fescue thrives on very little water.  Rather than competing on the Georgia-defined playing field of emerald green, it offers California an opportunity to showcase a distinctive and authentic look.  Festuca Californica:
  • Quickly becomes hardy, even in drought
  • Thrives under Coast live oaks, a nice fairway pairing
  • Comes in five distinct colors ranging from chalky blue to grey-green
  • Maintains a consistent foliage color year round, particularly cultivars of the silvery varieties
  • Can be mowed or left long
  • Attracts birds with its seed heads and silvery blades

L.A.’s fairways could be lined with silvery blue rivers shaded by expansive canopies of Coast live oak.  If we add intoxicatingly fragrant and eye-catching cornflower blue of Salvia cleavelandi, spikes of Juncus and fuchsia Hummingbird sage, Augusta’s rough envy might just bring out  an entirely new shade of green!

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