While working in the nursery and landscape business for the past 13 years, I have met two kinds of people when it comes to ornamental grasses. The people who LOVE ornamental grasses and those that HATE ornamental grasses. It’s a question I’ve learned to ask up front to people when making plant suggestions..”What do you think about grasses?” And inevitably the answer is pretty adamant one way or the other. Very few people are on the fence about them, and I’m not either.
I LOVE them for many reasons:
- Very low maintenance for lots of impact
- They are a diverse group, so you can have lots of them serving different purposes
- Multi-season appeal—a perennial with winter interest is always a plus!
- Grasses look good standing alone or in mass plantings
- They can help soften harsh lines of shrubs borders and
- Ornamental grasses break up the monotony with little effort on your part.
Here are a few I will be offering this spring. If you want to know all of my favorites, you’ll have to stop by the market and we can talk grasses!
Miscanthus s. ‘Nippon’is a grass that is quick to make a large clump. The seedheads are a rosy pink before turning tan at frost. The habit of the plant is gracefully arching and it gets about 5’ tall.
Panicum v. ‘Dust Devil’ is a strictly upright grass that works great in tight spaces. It will reach 4-5′ tall and has pinkish purple seed heads in the fall. Another switchgrass I highly recommend is Panicum v. ‘Northwind’.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Desert Plains’ is a great grass for the middle of the border, reaching 4′ in height. This selection has hints of red and orange on the leaf blades in the fall. I will also have the straight species of Chinese Fountain Grass as this is commonly called. The bottlebrush-like flower heards are great for softening any perennial border.
Lastly Hakonechloa m. ‘Nicolas’ is great because it is a grass for the shade. Generally ornamental grasses do best in full fun, but this group of Hakone grasses will do best in full to part shade. If it does get sun, morning sun is preferred to the hot, late day sun. These grasses are typical grown for their foliage, as their seedheads are not very impressive. They grow as low mounds and look best in groups or in masses. I will also have the variety Hakonechloa m. ‘All Gold’. These are best in Zone 5, but I have had no problems with mine out in the country in northern Boone County with a generous layer of mulch, and snow cover doesn’t hurt either.
I hope you can find a place in your garden for some ornamental grasses. I wish I could have more varieties for sale. Maybe next year. I do have a lot in my display gardens at home and would love to give you a tour if you’re interested. They are a very diverse group with little disease or insect problems and adapt to many different soil types and growing conditions. There is one out there for every sunny situation! And even a few for those less sunny spots!
Photos Courtesy of Walter’s Gardens, Inc.