One often over-looked addition to the landscape is ornamental grass. If you have not already discovered the many virtues of ornamental grasses, please continue reading! Who knows, maybe you’ll try one in your landscape and then before long, you’ll have two and more. The appeal of ornamental grass will grow on you!
So, what are some of those virtues? Ornamental grasses …
- are adaptable and can grow in poor soils
- require little maintenance
- are available in a large variety of heights, colors and textures
- are often used to add interest to the border or garden for 4 seasons, and often fall has the greatest display
- are largely unaffected by disease and pests
- are largely resistant to deer
- are great for drying and used in decoration
- offer a nice rustling sound and attractive movement in the wind
- are known for their hardiness and longevity
- are versatile and can be used as: ground covers, specimen plants, for erosion control and as an element of vertical design
- offer textures to the landscape that contrasts nicely with leaves and blooms of perennial flowers
In addition, ornamental grasses can be used to:
- create privacy, tall grass varieties planted in mass groupings can create a lovely screen
- grow in containers to dress up decks and patios
- grow around pools because they do not bloom and attract bees
- edge borders with neat, tidy lines of small varieties like blue fescue
- attract wildlife, especially birds
- create a meadow or prairie effect which is easier to maintain than a lawn
The term ornamental grass is used to include not only true grasses but also sedges, rushes, bamboos and others. Grasses add variety to many types of gardens including water, rock, wildlife, xeriscape and others. They range from giants that are 8 feet in height or more to short varieties that are 6 inches in height. In addition to differences in sizes, there are differences in growth habit. Some are clump forming, making great specimens in gardens and effective in masses. Others are considered to have a running growth habit and can be aggressive spreaders. Running varieties are great for slopes where erosion control is needed or as ground cover. A third classification is called sod-forming, and these are varieties that put out short rhizomes. Their spread is more just a widening of the clump, and they are not considered to be aggressive.
Ornamental grasses also prefer different growing conditions. In general they grow best in 3 – 5 hours of direct sun each day. Too much shade may keep the grass from blooming and from developing its peak fall colors. There are varieties that are ideal for dry sites and others than tolerate wet conditions. Some grasses grow best under warm temperatures (warm season) and others in cooler temperatures (cool season). Spring is typically the time for cutting the plant back, usually before new growth begins, and often plants can be divided in the spring and transplanted.
This blog post is barely touching on ornamental grasses, but aren’t you getting just a little bit excited about the possibility of adding some grass to your landscape? In addition to the list of virtues above, ornamental grasses look spectacular when they are placed where they can catch the early morning or evening sunlight. They truly do add to the garden experience with their graceful movements and comforting rustling sounds. They just seem to welcome you into the garden.
Question of the week: What’s your favorite ornamental grass that’s growing in your landscape?
By Kimberly Bell