Long relegated exclusively
to lawns, grasses are now becoming the darlings of the perennial garden--so
much so that the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year is an ornamental grass.
Grasses provide multi-season interest, with striking foliage and ornamental
seedheads. Many have feathery plumes that make a welcome addition to cut
Grasses and perennial
flowers are naturals together. Look at any wild meadow, and you'll likely
find the two growing side by side. However, ornamental grasses differ
from their wild cousins in a number of ways. First of all, ornamental
grasses have been bred for a variety of foliage colors and forms, and
many have very showy seedheads. Ornamental grasses are also better behaved
than wild grasses--that is, they won't spread wildly and take over entire
Although grasses lack
the large and colorful flowers of many ornamentals, their beauty is found
in their foliage textures, colors, and forms. Not only does their straplike
foliage provide striking contrast for flowering perennials, they also
add vitality to a planting as they sway in the breeze.
Foerster' Feather Reed Grass
Perennial Plant of the Year!
ornamental grass starts out in spring with a striking clump of
narrow green leaves. Then the
showy golden plumes appear in early summer and last well into
winter--truly an all-season plant!
Foerster' grows 5 to 6 feet tall, with a spread of 2 to 3 feet.
can be categorized as either clumping and spreading. Clump-forming grasses
form tidy mounds and spread slowly. Spreading grasses spread by creeping
roots, and some can become invasive. When considering an ornamental grass,
make sure it is classified as clump-forming, or at least described as
slow-spreading. If you have your heart set on a variety, only to find
out it can become invasive, consider sinking a large pot into the soil
and planting it in there. The pot will contain the roots to limit spreading.
Let's look at some popular ornamental
vertical in form
- tough and
- long bloom
- intense steel-blue
- forms compact
rapidly (but not invasive)
- good for
foliage and copper red plumes
for Ornamental Grasses
cousins, the lawn grasses, ornamental grasses are generally relatively
durable and reliable. Most grasses prefer full sun. They tend to be tolerant
of a wide range of soil types and prefer a pH between 5 and 7. Once established,
most ornamental grasses have deep, far-ranging root systems, making them
resistant to drought. However, give them some extra TLC during their first
season by watering them throughout dry spells. Ornamental grasses are
also remarkably pest-free.
many perennials, grasses respond well to shearing back in late winter.
Although you can also cut back dead foliage in fall, most grasses are
attractive well into winter, and many have seedheads that attract birds.
Whenever you decide to prune, simply cut down each clump to 3 to 6 inches
above ground, using sharp scissors or pruners. In the spring, the grass
will resprout from the crown.
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