Ornamental grasses deliver a significant return on your investment. They bring interesting textures to the garden, as well as movement and even sound as they dance in the breeze. You can find grasses in nearly every color, including blue, dark red, white and green stripes, bronze and even gold. Their leaves sometimes change colors during the growing season, transforming to richer, deeper shades in autumn, followed by more subdued tones in the winter. Their seed heads may be delicate, but most of the time they command attention and introduce a new element to a landscape.
There is probably an ornamental grass variety for any gardening situation.
Many ornamental grasses are perennials which go dormant during the fall and winter and then sprout again in the spring. They vary in size from smaller varieties which only get 4” to 6” inches tall to taller specimens that grow in excess of 10 feet. They thrive in dry, sunny conditions as well as in moist, shady conditions found near ponds or streams. Some ornamental grasses such as Elijah Blue Festuca mature into slow-growing clumps while others such as Japanese Blood Grass spread in a manner similar to lawns and turf grass.
Another beneficial aspect of ornamental grasses is that they not only create visual interest but they can be real problem solvers as well. For example, if you don’t want to see your air conditioning unit when you look out your window you can surround it with ornamental grasses and hide it. If you have dry soil conditions where you have problems growing anything try Fountain Grass or Zebra Grass as a solution to your problem. If your damp soil is a concern Sedge grasses will thrive in these conditions and if you are trying to create a barrier to keep unwanted visitors out try planting a row of Pampas Grass.
One ornamental grass that I’ve had a lot of experience with is Purple Fountain Grass. I’ve used this grass as a “thriller” in a container as well as an interesting plant at the rear of a flower border. It is quite versatile and does well in both dry and moist soils in full sun to partial shade and its purple foliage is really unique and catches your eye. During the season it will sprout attractive plumes which are purple with a tan hue and wave gracefully in the summer breeze. The only drawback to this grass is it is not a perennial in most areas of the country and has to be planted each year.
Finally, not all ornamental grass grows tall and waves in the wind. Lilyturf is also known as Liriope and Mondo Grass grow very low to the ground and make an effective ground cover. So it is pretty easy to see that for every landscaping challenge there is an ornamental grass that can come to your rescue! If you’ve never tried growing ornamental grasses maybe this is the year to give them a try!
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Photo Courtesy of Jill Mazur.