Autumn Splendor

 

Ornamental GrassesGrass in your flowerbeds? For gardeners who've spent hours pulling invasive weeds, this may seem like strange advice. But let me introduce you to the new, well-behaved varieties of ornamental grasses. Windblown, untamed and graceful, they lend an appealing accent to gardens and containers.

Hardy and Happy
Ornamental grasses require little maintenance and are very forgiving about soil, making them easy to grow. Also, once they are established, most varieties develop deep root systems, so they're quite drought tolerant. With just a little TLC during the first season, cold hardy varieties will be reliable, long lived additions to your garden. On top of all that, they're remarkably pest free.

So Many Options
There are hundreds of varieties of ornamental grasses, so you're sure to find one well suited to your garden. They range in size from diminutive 4-inch plants to those that stretch up more than 15 feet in height. Some varieties grow upright and vertical, while others spread. Most are cold-tolerant and will come back year after year. A few like purple fountain grass, can't survive frigid temperatures, but are still worth growing as annuals. Check with the garden center in your area to help you make the best choices.

Design Ideas
Use the low growing varieties to add texture to the front of flowerbeds or to help define the edge of a border. Mid-size grasses add interest to the center and back areas of a border and are beautiful when combined with other late season perennials such as salvia, asters and goldenrod. Those varieties over 6 feet tall look great against fences and walls, or they can serve as focal points in the center of a garden. The real beauty of ornamental grasses shines through when they are paired with contrasting plants. For example, if the grass has fine, delicate foliage, it looks best when planted next to something with big, bold flowers or leaves. Both plants are more noticeable because of the contrast.

Late Season Care
As with many perennials, ornamental grasses respond well to shearing back in late winter. Some gardeners cut back dead foliage in the fall, but you may want to wait as most grasses are attractive well in the winter, and many have seed heads that attract birds.

When you cut back grasses, use pruners to cut each clump to 3 to 6 inches above the ground. In the spring the grass will re-sprout from the crown.


Woman's Day Magazine This article originally appeared as my "Your Garden" column in the Oct. 05, 2004 issue of Woman's Day magazine. To read more of my garden and home advice included in the magazine visit www.womansday.com and become a subscriber.

 

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