Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Grass Season!

Karl Foerster Grass in full fall glory.

Ornamental grass that is. Ever since we inherited a clump of Maiden Grass at our first home in St. Louis, I have been in love with ornamental grasses. They are virtually care free, and they bring movement and sound into the garden. Despite warning about requiring lots of room, I try to plunk 'em down all over the place in my .08 acre lot. My love affair is helped a bit by the fact that Kane's Flower World sells 4-inch pots for $5, pretty much all season. I've planted various Miscanthi and even a giant Ravenna grass (which I gave away to my sister, who has a much larger yard). In the last three years of growing, I've started to learn a thing or two.

Miscanthus 'Gracillimus' looking quite airy.

1) You absolutely cannot move most of these grasses (warm season) until they start growing. If you move them while dormant, they die. I've learned this through trial and error (mostly error).

2) I have mostly planted varieties of Miscanthus (there are about 8 million), and have had best luck with two kinds, Variegated Miscanthus (Miscanthus 'Variegatus'), sometimes called Japanese Silver Grass and Zebra Grass (Miscanthus 'Zebrinus'). A strong third place finisher is Miscanthus 'Gracillimus.' I've found that all three hold their form really well, even when battered by some tough winds (especially Zebrinus).

3) If you want them to bloom, don't move them! I have a horrible habit (shared by many gardeners, I hear) of moving my plants around constantly. Few of my grasses bloom because I tend to move them at least once, if not twice during the summer. I finally let the Karl Foster grass (seen above) stay in one place, and they've rewarded me with lovely golden blooms.

4) Alone (as in not in a hedge grouping), the grasses look best in corners, towards the back of the border, with plants with more nondescript foliage. My favorite pairings of grasses, are with roses, dahlias, cone flowers, and Shasta Daisies. There's something about the narrow blade of the grasses that make a great canvas for the bold flowers and more blah foliage of those plants. So if you have a tall flower, with splindly stems, pair them with some Miscanthus. Actually, scratch that, you can pair grasses with anything with a broader leaf.

Red Double Knock-out Rose looking lovely
paired with Miscanthus 'Variegatus'

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