The Beauty of Grasses

    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.
    • First-year fruit trees need to be well-watered through the dry weather. If they are neglected the first year, they may never be strong, productive trees.
    • Japanese maples may be pruned now in order to shape them.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • Plant beets now for fall harvest. They will have a deeper red color than beets planted for spring harvest, and tend to have higher sugar levels too.

The Beauty of Grasses

Ornamental grasses are an essential companion for perennials. Their linear leaves and various growth habits provide striking contrast to the shapes of most perennials. They add beauty and texture to almost any landscape, and provide such valuable traits as reliability, long season of interest and a tolerance of a wide range of environments.

With their foliage so different from leafy shrubs, grasses make a striking contrast to shrubs and most perennials. In the fall, when most of them bloom, their graceful plumes or feathery flowers are very attractive. The contrast of textures and shapes is one of the most appealing aspects of gardening with ornamental grasses.

One of the most attractive grasses is Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster,’ is known as feather reed grass and is valued for its early bloom, vertical lines and ability to grow in heavy soils. It makes a clump of narrow, stiff, rich green leaves that grow 3′ tall and 2′ wide. Flower stalks rise to 6 feet with feathery plumes that turn golden in summer.

Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea, has showy green-and-white striped foliage on a spreading plant that reaches 30 inches tall. It can be very invasive so it is best grown in a container. It likes partial shade and can be grown in dry or moist soil. It has showy flowers that are pale pink and bloom in June and July.

Japanese Blood Grass, Imperata rubra, is a unusual and dramatic grass, slowly forming a low clump of red-tipped leaves that glow in the sun. It grows 12-18” tall and rarely flowers but its red foliage becomes more intense over the summer and fall.

Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, is a clumping grass that is treasured for its showy, drooping flowers and rich, bamboo-like foliage. It is effective in mass plantings as well as a good choice for shady, damp conditions, though it will also grow in full sun. The flowers are very attractive throughout their various stages, and they make excellent cut or dried flowers.

Muhlenbergia capillaris, known as Pink Muhly grass, is a clumping grass to 3 feet tall with vibrant pink, airy flowers on 4-foot stems. It is very attractive massed for late season color.

Maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus,’ is an elegant grass with a vase-like form to 6 feet tall. It blooms in late summer with striking plumes of white flowers, and turns golden bronze after first frost. Use as a screening or background plant.

Blue Fescue, Festuca glauca, grass has been used for decades as an attractive border plant for edging driveways and walks. Its blue foliage grows to 10 inches tall with flower spikes rising to 18 inches. It grows well in full or partial sun with average watering.

Mexican Feather Grass, Stipa tenuissima, is a great plant for mass planting, as it waves gracefully in light breezes. It blooms in the summer with feathery flowers that turn a golden brown, rising above the 24-inch, green foliage.

Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola,’ is a gorgeous grass for shady sites. Its bright yellow foliage with thin green stripes gives the effect of a tiny bamboo, without the invasive qualities. It makes a graceful, colorful groundcover for the shady bed.

Deer avoid most ornamental grasses so you can add year-round interest to your landscape with these attractive plants.

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