The Matt Rushes at San Marcos Growers
Matt Rush is a common name for Lomandra, a genus with about 50 species of tufted dioecious perennial herbs with long narrow blade-like leaves that arise from a central stemless base (acaulescent) and have thick woody rhizomes and fibrous roots. Flower inflorescences are cymes, panicles or spikes with male and female flowers on separate plants with both sexes of flowers looking fairly similar. Most of the cultivars have yellow flowers of varying fragrance that are in tight clusters and accompanied by slender spines. The genus has a widespread distribution through diverse habitats from rainforests to arid areas largely restricted to Australia but with 2 species extending into New Guinea and New Caladonia. The genus Lomandra was previously placed in the lily family, the Liliaceae, then with the grass trees, in the Xanthorrhoeaceae and later the Dasypogonaceae but current treatment is to put it in the subfamily Lomandroideae in the Asparagaceae, which includes such well known plants as Aloe, the cabbage palm, palm lily and ti plant (Cordyline sp.), the rock-lilies (Arthropodium sp.), the Paper-lilies (Laxmannia sp.) and the Fringe-lilies (Thysanotus sp.). Alternate treatments place in the Laxmanniaceae or its own family, the Lomandraceae. The name Lomandra is comes from the Greek words "loma" meaning margin and "andros" meaning male and is in reference to a circular margin on the anthers. These plants are commonly called Matt Rushes because leaves were used for weaving into mats by the Australian Aboriginal people, who also used the leaf bases as a food.
We began growing Lomandra at San Marcos Growers in 1990 after purchasing seed of Lomandra longifolia from Nindethana Seed Company in Australia. Our interest was piqued after seeing this plant used extensively in gardens in Australia while touring this country in 1989. Particularly impressive was the plant versatility as it was used as an interior plant, in aquatic gardens and as a dry growing plant in the Eucalyptus understory. Our first seed grown plants were very large and, though quite attractive and tough, their use was limited to large gardens. A majority of this first crop went to Madame Ganna Walska Lotusland in 1992, where the planting remains as an attractive large scale groundcover under Blue Gums (Eucalyptus globulus).
Lomandra longifolia under Blue Gums (Eucalyptus globulus) near the visitor parking area at Madame Ganna Walska Lotusland.
The second Lomandra to cross our path was an attractive Matt Rush we received from Southern California plantsman Gary Hammer in 1996 that we thought would be far more useful in smaller gardens and for mass plantings as it appeared that it would remain considerably shorter than the larger form of Lomandra longifolia that we were growing. It took us several years to build up enough stock on this plant and we were finally able to begin selling it in 1998. Still thinking this plant would remain small and wanting to honor Gary Hammer as the source, we called this plant Lomandra longifolia 'Gary's Dwarf'. After growing this plant for many years we finally concluded that it was neither a dwarf plant, or a form of Lomandra longifolia but a selction of c so renamed it Lomandra hystrix 'Gary's Green'. We still have both or our original Lomandras in the garden but have since replaced the large Lomandra longifolia with smaller cultivars and replaced 'Gary's Green' with the similar but slightly smaller Lomandra hystrix Tropic Bell ['LHCOM']
After growing and selling these early Lomandra varieties for a few years, we were told by Australian horticulturalists that new selections of Lomandra were gaining popularity in Australia. In 2003 we were contacted by Tobey Wagner of VersaScapes, a turfgrass producer in South Carolina, who was trialing a smaller cultivar of Lomandra from Australian plant breeder Todd Layt of Ozbreed. VersaScapes was looking at grasslike plants that would be tough and attractive for their southeastern market as a replacement for Liriope, as this ubiquitous turf lily was having disease problems in southern gardens. The plant they were evaluating was called Lomandra 'Tanika' in Australia, but was registered in the US with the cultivar name 'LM300' and the trade name of "Breeze". Thinking this plant may have a future with a broader market, VersaScapes asked San Marcos Growers and Australian Native Plants Nursery in Ojai to trial this plant in California. Our first test planting was planted in spring 2004 and is still thriving in our garden today. This plant and the newer cultivars that have followed behind it have become so popular, and at such a rapid pace, that our friend John Greenlee (AKA The Grassman) remarked about the increasing interest in these plants as "The Lomandra Revolution". The steady stream of new Lomandra cultivars that have since become available will assure that this Lomandra Revolution will carry on!
The general cultivation requirements for Lomandra are easy for most gardeners to provide. They grow in sun or shade with abundant to little or nearly no supplemental irrigation - plants will grow actively and more robust when water is provided but when water is withheld, in most situations the plants do not die but stop active growth. More irrigation will need to be provided in hotter inland locations but for coastal gardens, especially in the shade, these plants can certainly be considered "drought tolerant" - some exceptions to these guidelines are explained on the individual listings of these plants at the links below but generally these plants are carefree. Another positive attribute noted is that these plants don't seem to be very attractive to gophers, which is a real plus. We have also found them to respond well to being cut back hard and in fact have succesfully done this on a nearly annual basis in the fall through late spring with Lomandra hystrix 'Gary's Green' and Lomandra longifolia Breeze. Both of these plants were cut to tight mounds no more than 6 inches tall and they both resprouted and grew back rapidly - within 3 weeks the plants looked presentable. This cutting back cleaned up older foliage and made the plants more presentable but is not necessary, as we have older clumps in the ground for over 25 years that have never been cut back in this manner and they are still quite attractive.
Currently we are growing the following Lomandra:
Lomandra confertifolia ssp. rubiginosa Pacific Sky ['LM700'] PPAF
Lomandra confertifolia 'Seascape' PP20,010
Lomandra confertifolia ssp. pallida 'Pom Pom' PPAF (AKA Shorty)
Lomandra Evergreen Baby ['LM600'] PP28,260 (AKA Baby Breeze)
Lomandra fluviatilis Shara ['AU807'] PP23,950
Lomandra hystrix Tropicbelle ['LHCOM'] PP20,759
Lomandra Lime Tuff ['Lomlon'] PP23,034 (AKA Lime Tough)
Lomandra longifolia Breeze ['LM300'] PP15,420 (AKA Tanika)
Lomandra longifolia Nyalla ['LM400'] PP15,583
Lomandra longifolia Platinum Beauty ['Roma13'] PP25,962 (AKA White Sands)
Lomandra longifolia 'Steely Slim'
Lomandra we hope to have soon:
Lomandra confertifolia 'Finescape'
Lomandra hystrix Lucky Stripe [LMV200'] PP26,418
Lomandra hystrix 'Sunsprite''
Lomandra we have grown in the past:
Lomandra confertifolia 'Little Con'
Lomandra filiformis Savannah Blue ['LMF500'] PP18,859
Lomandra hystrix 'Gary's Green'
Lomandra filiformis 'Goldfield Blue'