Grasses in Masses
|Schizachyrium scoparium - October
For a few years I have been trying to incorporate ornamental
grasses into my colorful lush garden. However I frequently felt
that I hadn't yet figured out the best way to use them. Then
last summer Jim gave me a couple of plug trays of grasses to
trial in my garden. Rather than scatter them about I planted
the 25 plants of a single variety in a group. The effect was
terrific! Suddenly a light bulb went on. One look at the mass
planted grasses and I realized that grasses need to be planted
I had already done that with my established hedge of Calamagrostis
x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'. Eight plants swaying in the
breeze look so much more interesting than just one. Schizachyrium
scoparium is another grass that sways beautifully as do
A group planting of Carex
flagellifera is extremely interesting to look down on. Due
to the plants hummocky form, the effect is one of upside down
string mops. Plant Carex flagellifera or Sporobolus
heterolepis where they can be viewed from above.
are also excellent in masses as the haze effect of their
flowers shows best when an area is full of the same plant. These
plants are also highly recommended for planting at the base
of plants that need their bottoms hidden, in particular Phlox
paniculata (garden phlox) and Monarda (bee balm). The dark green
color of Deschampsia is also good hiding the base of rose bushes
and C. 'Karl Foerster'.
We are all probably familiar with the Festucas
planted en mass (particularly 'Elijah Blue'), but have you considered
(Blue oat grass) used the same way? It is a much taller
blue-leaved grass but every bit as effective and you need fewer
glauca is a blue grass at the opposite end of the scale.
It is smaller than the Festucas and will self seed to fill in
an area with a sea of blue.
'Spiralis' has to make it the most intriguing plant en mass.
The countless curlycues are a unique form in the plant world.
Looking down on a mass planting of these would look like a bedspring.
This plant needs moist soil or can be grown directly in water.
|Pennisetum alopecuroides -
It is sometimes possible to see a mass of Pennisetum
used in parks and private landscapes. The species Pennisetum
alopecuroides becomes quite a big plant and suitable for covering
a large area. For smaller areas try the dwarf versions, P. 'Hameln'.
Festuca mairei has a similar
form to the Pennisetum and would make an interesting alternative.
So my enthusiasm for Grasses in Masses inspired
Jim to offer many more grasses as plugs this year. This in an
inexpensive way to plant a large number of one variety. The
minimum number of plugs of one variety is 25. If you don't need
that many perhaps you have a friend you can share them with.
Or garden clubs can get together to order or pot up the plugs
for a plant sale.
Elysium Nursery in Kelowna
This beautiful picture was sent to us by Jacquie Cherot of
Nursery. She has extensive display gardens at her nursery
in Kelowna, BC. Last summer it was threatened by the huge forest
fire that destroyed so many homes there. She ran around the
gardens taking pictures the day that she was evacuated. She
wasn't sure if the gardens would be there when she returned.
The colors in this photo are due to the smoke in the air at
the time and resulted in a shooting star look for the Helictotrichon.
I am happy to report that Elysium was not touched by the fire.
Elysium Garden Nursery has a spectacular display of ornamental
grasses. If you are in the Okanagan Valley (in British Columbia,
Canada), in September in particular, I highly recommend you
pay a visit.
Wondering when and how to cut back your ornamental grasses?
Visit our newsletter from April '03 for
the information. Want to know how
to divide grasses? Click on the colored text to go straight
to the information on our website.
Our Deer Friends
In Christina Lake and Grand Forks we have a huge deer population,
yet they don't eat the ornamental grasses.
Bluestem Nursery would like to hear your experiences with deer
and ornamental grasses. Please email us
if you have any information to share as I would like to
post this on the website for the benefit of others.
Farmers are real experts, they are often outstanding in their
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