Ornamental Grasses by June Morgan.
From earliest years grasses have had important functions as human and animal feed, material for basket making and decoration. Later uses were functional as paths and playing fields. But grasses used in landscaping design were rare ingredients in American gardening until the 1880’s when Wolfgang Oehme, from Germany, produced wonderful results in U.S. public gardens. Since then, more varieties and uses have been developed to the delight of the gardener.
Ornamental grasses come in various heights, colors, shade and sun tolerance and soil requirements.
Choosing varieties for specific areas calls for visits to local plant nurseries and study of catalogs with listings and descriptions of their uses and qualities.Important considerations are whether the grass is spring or fall growing and seed or rhizome producing. Rhizomes can cause an invasive problem in a small area whereas seed dropping can often be controlled by mulching. Almost all ornamental grasses are perennials, making them low maintenance. While fall tillage adds to soil improvement, spring planting is usually more successful, giving the plants time to establish a root system before winter. They do not require large amounts of fertilizer. They need a light mulch during the first winter and a not too deep planting.
SOME GARDENING USES:
1. Tall grasses such as Pampas or Bluestem for a privacy hedge, background for low growing shrubs and flowers, and specimen accents in tall containers in outdoor spots.
2.Small varieties for edging, borders and a specialized area known as a “knot garden” where a geometric planting of a small hedge with open spaces are filled in with a low growing grass.
3.Medium height grass in a container with low or overflowing vines or flowers.
4.In a mass bedding composed of various colors and textures, especially for fall color.
5.Mixed with sculpture in an outdoor setting.
6. Dried for indoor décor.
7.Softening of hardscaping such as rocks, tiles, etc. around a pool or wall.
8.Groundcover for large areas to control erosion.
9.Food and cover for wildlife, especially for birds
10.Breaking up the monotony of a flower or foliage bed.
11.Offer to share with a basketmaker friend.
While local nurseries carry some varieties (more so as weather warms), information and visuals can be found in nursery catalogs and many online websites for “Ornamental Grasses.” Especially useful for our areas are “North Texas Ornamental Grasses” and “Ornamental Grasses” by Barry Fugitt from Tulsa. An extensive online listing with brief descriptions is found from North Haven Gardens.
With so much information available, the creative gardener will be able to plan an exciting, different, and adventurous space to enjoy.