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LET’S TALK GARDENING – Ornamental Grasses

By Doug Hensel
Doug's Blog

SO MANY WONDERFUL VARIETIES

It is now towards the end of July. It is hot. It is dry. It is humid. But, who loves this time of year? ORNAMENTAL GRASSES! This is their time of year to show off their beautiful blades of grass and their flower plumes.

I fell in love with ornamental grasses years ago. The obvious variety that people see so often is the Pampas Grass, especially when traveling to the beaches. It is so tall and then that white flower plume sticking up to make the plant as tall as 15 feet or more. Quite impressive! But, I think the first grass that caught my interest was the Zebra Grass, with its green and yellow striped foliage. This may have been the first variety that I bought and planted in my landscape.

When you decide that you want to plant ornamental grass, the biggest challenge will be deciding what variety you want to plant because there are so many varieties within the different family types – Pennisetum, Miscanthus, Festuca, Schizachyrium, Panicum, Cortaderia, Muhlenbergia, and others. When you come to see us then you will see all these varieties together in a large area. I would not worry about trying to decide what variety based on the botanical name. What I would suggest is to concentrate your effort on the look of the grass and the growing dimensions to order to determine your choice of ornamental grass.

Here is what they all have in common:

  • Sun-loving  –  all ornamental grasses need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. More the merrier.
  • Rich, well draining soil  –  all ornamental grasses need well drain soil. Adding either sand or compost to your soil at the time of planting is essential to the health of the grass.
  • Deer resistant
  • Drought resistant
  • All can be grown in containers
  • Being a hardy perennial, ornamental grasses do die for the winter. I try to encourage people to enjoy the dead, brown foliage for its winter interest and to hold off on cutting the foliage until the first part of March. Then in March you can cut the foliage back as close to ground level as possible.

There are even a few varieties of ornamental grasses that are classified as being native to our area. A few varieties are a part of the American Beauties Native Plants program. Matter of fact, my new favorite ornamental grass is the native Standing Ovation Little Bluestem. I love its size, its bluish-green foliage along with a few burgundy leaves. And, this variety attracts birds and butterflies, which is a wonderful bonus. Little Bluestem works great in a container.

In a nutshell, ornamental grasses are a common landscape staple because of their easy care and low maintenance. You see grasses used in most commercial landscaping and neighborhood landscaping. Large growing grasses make beautiful specimens but the smaller compact and dwarf varieties offer equal interest.

PLANT A LITTLE HAPPINESS!!!!!!!!!!!!

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4 thoughts on “LET’S TALK GARDENING – Ornamental Grasses

  1. We are looking for ornamental grasses. But Meadows Farms doesn’t have any on display or too purchase at their garden stores In Winchester or Charlestown WV.

  2. Keith,
    Good Morning. Well… I am a little surprised that neither store has ornamental grasses right now. Ornamental grasses are in their glory right now. We pride ourselves with our wide selection of varieties of ornamental grasses. I don’t see a way that I can help you other than to give you an invitation to come see us. We would love the opportunity to show your our vast selection of ornamental grasses. Doug

  3. I have an ornamental grass in a container, but would like to transplant it to an in-ground location. Would it be better to wait until the spring to plant it or should I plant it during the fall? Thank you.

  4. Jane,
    Good Morning. Ornamental grasses are very tough plants. If you are ready to pull it up out of your container and actually plant it in the ground then now or anytime this fall is a great time for this project. Let me know if you have any further questions. Doug

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