Three Outstanding Ornamental Grasses
Blooming ornamental grasses blowing in the summer breeze add movement and texture to the landscape. Whether used as a large background screen, an anchor in the shrub border, or on a slope to control erosion, grasses add a wispy dimension to the late summer garden. Ornamental grasses give the “feeling that somehow the full meridian of summer’s glory is stealing quietly into unmistakable autumn” (Norman Taylor 1955). And so they carry us into fall and we pair them with perennials such as Autumn Joy sedum, Blackeyed Susans, Asters , and mums. There are three outstanding ornamental grasses that we like to use in landscape design here at Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping.
1. Fountain Grass
Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) is a compact, clump forming perennial with flower spikes resembling reddish brown bottlebrushes or foxtails. ‘Hameln’ is a smaller species (24” tall) with finer textured foliage and whitish flower heads which are attractive during late summer and early fall in east Tennessee. Fountain grass is an excellent plant for mass planting or used alone as a specimen. While the flower spikes will not remain all winter, the grassy green foliage which the frost turns tan colored, will add form to the winter garden. We love Hameln grass with sedums and coneflowers.
2. Maiden Grass
The second grass we enjoy is Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis). The growth habit is an upright clump of 8’ tall by 4’ wide. It’s flowers of pale pink fading to silver tones appear late summer/earl fall and the plumes will remain into early winter. ‘Adagio’ is a dwarf form reaching 4’ tall and 2’ wide and is useful in smaller gardens. All specimens can be used as screens and in park like settings, or in masses in low maintenance gardens. Many people enjoy using the flower plumes in dried arrangements and crafts. Also interesting is the rustling sound made as the wind blows through the grass blades.
3. Muhly Grass
Our third favorite is Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Whose blooms form an incredible fluffy mass of pink ‘cotton candy’ in Aug. and September. The foliage is a finer texture than our first two choices and is only about 2-3’ tall. The flower stalks float above this to give a height of 4’ maximum. Muhly looks smashing in mass plantings with Little Lime Hydrangeas dotted behind and Russian Sage and/or Autumn Joy Sedum planted in the foreground.
Bold drifts of ornamental grasses paired with striking blooms and seed heads of late season perennials is a great way to bridge the summer season into falls glorious display of color. If you’re still not convinced of the beauty of grasses, please search for the gardens by Piet Oudolf on Google. Simply incredible!