Twig Tips by Jodie

Posted on August 10, 2018 by JO

Gotta Get Some Grass!

It's that time of year when the ornamental grasses are coming into their glory, and boy do we love 'em...ok, some of us love them.  If you are not a fan of a natural-looking planting and prefer your boxwoods pruned into perfect balls, I'm going to guess that you don't care for them.  But for those of you who appreciate what grasses can bring to a landscape planting with their texture and form, here's some tips about a few non-native species that we use in this area.  I've written another Twig Tips about native species of grasses called This Grass is a Gas, watch for it later this fall.

1)Miscanthus, or Silver Grass.  Also known as Maiden Grass, this is the Queen of Ornamental Grasses and the one that most people are familiar with. They come in a wide range of sizes, from the dwarf 'Little Kitten' around 3' to the Giant Silver Grass at over 10'.  Big difference, that is why it's very important to determine ahead of time what size you want the grass to get eventually, NOT how tall it is when you buy it (back to that cute puppy/big dog analogy, they WILL grow!) And a word of warning...Miscanthus grasses are a bear to dig out with very deep root systems so make sure you plant it where you want it.  My favorite variety is 'Gracillimus', which gets 5'tall/wide with very fine leaves and a gorgeous vase shape. 

2)Fountain Grass.  These are the ones that have the cute little fuzzy blooms that look a little like a caterpillar stuck on the end of a grass strand.  Most Fountain grass are shorter (1-3') and the thing you really have to watch with this one is that you choose a hardy variety, many that are sold in this area are not hardy, namely the Purple Fountain Grass that is strictly an annual in this state.  You have probably seen them used in many container plantings.  These can also be a little invasive, so be might end up where you don't want it.


3)Feather Reed Grass.  This one is VERY popular with landscapers and you will see them used extensively. Feather Reed Grass flowers much earlier in the summer than the above grasses, is very hardy and never gets big.  Yippee!  It is narrower than it is tall (3' wide and 4' tall).  The blooms are feathery at first, slightly pink in color and then dry to a thin "reed" that resembles wheat.  This one tolerates some shade and is very hardy.  The most commonly used variety is named 'Karl Forester', there is a variegated variety called 'Overdam' which stays a little smaller and has green and white striped foliage.

Since all of the grasses look so beautiful in the fall and have winter interest also, I recommend that you wait until early spring to cut them back.  My big Zebra Miscanthus is out in the middle of nowhere and I just burn it in the spring....WHOOSH!  Stand back or you will get your hair singed, those babies have a lot of biomass and burn really hot!  Ornamental grasses have such interesting form and texture and can be used  as focal points, or massed for background plantings or screening. Adaptable, beautiful....what more could you ask for?  So, get out there and get some grass!

Off to hug my big Zebra grass, it's a beauty!  - Jodie


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