I am addicted to growing ornamental grasses. This addiction is especially acute in fall when they are at their most brilliant. I love the graceful movements of the blades when stirred by a late afternoon breeze and the sparkle of sunlight reflects off morning dew caught in the feathery plumes.
Grasses are such a versatile addition to the garden. They can be used to add texture, height and harmonizing color. They are always stylish whether planted in combination with bold foliage, intricate flowers, or fantastically colored blooms.
Although ornamental grasses step into the limelight in autumn, many varieties are only marginally cold tolerant so it is best to plant them in the spring to enjoy all summer and into fall.
When planting ornamental grasses make sure the bed or container is deeply cultivated, at least 36 inches, to give the root systems room to grow down. This helps increase their drought tolerance. Compost or humus is the only soil amendment needed.
Newly planted ornamental grasses need 1 inch of water weekly for the first growing season. After that they can be quite drought tolerant. Fertilize perennial varieties in spring with a slow release, all-purpose fertilizer. This is also a good time to divide clumps that have grown too large.
Last spring I planted several varieties at the Garden Home Retreat that I think might interest you.
|‘Pink Champagne’ Ruby Grass (Melinus nerviglumis) – The showy pink plumes that appear in mid to late summer make this grass a real show stopper. It’s an annual except in zones 9 and 10, but that’s okay because it grows quickly.
|Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima) – This grass is also known as pony tail and angel hair because of the delicate and wispy plumes. It propagates by seed so it can become a garden thug. Deadhead the plumes to prevent it from spreading. Cold hardy in zones 5 – 10.
|‘Eaton Canyon’ Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) – ‘Eaton Canyon’ has the same burgundy foliage and plumes as red fountain grass, but in a smaller package. Standard red fountain grass can grow to 4 feet while ‘Eaton Canyon’ matures at only 30 inches. Because it does not reseed as freely as red fountain grass it is a better choice for regions where the species could become invasive. Cold hardy in zones 8 – 10.
|‘Elijah Blue’ Fescue (Festuca ovina glauca) – This slivery-blue grass is great for flower borders and containers. It stays compact maturing at 8 to 12 inches tall. It is reliably perennial in zones 3 – 10.
|Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaries) – Muhly grass is a wonderful see through plant because the delicate blades and plumes allow background plants to show through. The plumes of pink muhly grass have a nice coppery pink hue. It grows to 24 – 36 inches tall. Cold hardy in zones 6 – 10.