Monday, October 26, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020

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Gardening with Allen: Prime time for ornamental grasses

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I have seen a lot of beautiful ornamental grasses recently. Is this a good time to plant them? What kinds do you suggest?

The ornamental grasses come into their prime in midsummer. Most of them are perennial, so now is a good time to plant them when you can see how they look. They are relatively easy to care for and have a lot of beauty in the fall and winter.

Karl Foerster feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutifolia) is my favorite. Plants stand up straight as a soldier. They bend in heavy wind, but spring right back to their 4- to 5-foot upright position. Their feathery golden spikes reach full height by midsummer. Feather reed grass makes an excellent background or specimen plant that continues to look attractive into the winter.

Skyracer moor grass (Molinia caerulea) is another variety that produces loose golden seed panicles early in the summer. Skyracer grows almost 6 feet high. Leaves turn a golden yellow in October, which adds to its beauty. A cousin of Skyracer is the dwarf variegated moor grass with green and yellow striped leaves. It grows only 3 feet high but has the same loose golden seed panicles.

Bronze Veil tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa) has 1-foot tufted green clumps of grass that are topped by loose, hairlike panicles about 3 feet high. The bronzy colored seed heads last from midsummer into the winter.

There are a number of varieties of maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis). Plants grow 5 feet high or taller during the summer. Then in September they produce spectacular silver flowers resembling hands with fingers. Variegatus has gold stripes the length of the leaves. Porcupine grass has broad yellow stripes across the wide leaves. Purpurascens has purple and gold leaves which are especially bright in the fall.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) produces 3-foot fountain shaped plants topped by purplish pink fox tail flowers in late summer and fall. Hameln has the same form but grows only 2 feet tall. Little Bunny grows a foot high. There are purple leaf varieties available also.

Golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) is a shade tolerant clump grass which makes beautiful beds and borders.

There are also a number of ornamental sedges that are also very attractive.

You will find these and other ornamental grasses ready to plant in full-service nurseries and garden stores now.