BLOWING IN THE WIND
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner
One of the most
pleasing sites in the landscape must be the wind blowing
the leaves of ornamental grasses. There is something
refreshing and relaxing about watching the leaves of
grasses that become animated with the action of the
wind upon them. When large fields of grasses are moving,
it’s quite like watching the waves upon
Ornamental grasses started to gain in popularity
a few years back and continue to attract people with
their unique contribution to the garden. Ornamental grasses
add a vertical accent that counterbalances the rounded
look that many shrubs posses. Every yard can benefit
from the addition of ornamental grasses.
When we speak of
ornamental grasses we will exclude lawns or bamboos.
Some of the most popular ornamental grasses range in
height from 8 inches to 6 feet plus. The most popular
ornamental grass the last couple of years has been
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’.
Commonly known as Purple fountain grass is has reddish
brown leaves and rose-colored plumes that fade to beige.
Purple fountain grass grows to about four feet tall and
wide and grows in the full sun. Unlike the species, it
will not go to seed and become invasive. It is generally
hardy in Auburn and elevations below, but will die in
the winter at higher elevations. It will go deciduous
where it lives thru the winter, like many grasses. When
the leaves on grasses start to look poor in the late
fall, simply cut them off at the ground level. They will
reemerge in the spring. Purple fountain grass looks especially
nice with orange or yellow plants such as Rudbeckia,
the Gloriosa daisy or Lime mound spirea.
For a tall green
leafed grass suitable for background plantings or as
a transition from landscaped areas to more natural
areas try Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ or
Maiden grass. It is among the most showy and liveliest
looking of the ornamental grasses. Narrow dark green
leaves form a graceful clump six to eight feet tall and
wide. This grass bears coppery plums that mature to a
cream color. In the fall the leaves have a bright orange
color. It looks especially showy against a background
of dark evergreens. Try the dwarf form of Miscanthus
in containers for a stunning look. It will grow only
three feet tall.
In the shade were
you need a bright, low growing plant try Liriope ‘Silver dragon’.
Growing to about one-foot tall it has green leaves that
are silvery striped that seem to shine in the shade.
I like to use it as an informal groundcover or edging
along a walkway. Liriope ‘Silvery Sunproof’ grow
the same height, but has leaves striped yellow. It produces
lilac blooms that rise well above the foliage. Liriope
adds a casual relaxed look to shade garden that is quite
refreshing in the warm summer months. Liriope are evergreen,
even in the winter. Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa,
is a deciduous grass for the shade that is one of the
best. Green leaves have yellow stripes to 14 inches tall.
This is a very graceful plant that should find a place
in every shade garden or container planting for the shade.
The above grasses are just a small selection of the many
that are available today. Sun or shade, ornamental grasses
will provide a nice vertical accent in any garden.