7 Essential Ornamental Grasses

Perennials | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Walking through the garden each season, or even week, a different plant will take center stage. Previously ignored as a team player in the rhythm of the landscape, the wallflower suddenly dominates the beauty of the garden. Late summer / Fall is when ornamental grasses get their champion moment in the garden against the autumnal colors. As other perennials are beginning to lose their luster and drop leaves, ornamental grasses are still standing tall with some parading proud plumes in fall winds. However there are ornamental grasses other than maiden hair grass (Miscanthus) and fountain grass (Pennisetum) . Here is a list of seven great ornamental grasses to try in your garden that give a lot in return.

 

Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’- Blonde Ambition blue grama grass

ZONES: 3-10   HEIGHT: .75 – 2.50ft    SPREAD: .75-1.50ft    FULL SUN

DESCRIPTION:

An American native Blonde Ambition blue grama grass changes the perception of  what an ornamental grass should look like with its horizontal insect-like seed head that appear mid to late summer.  Once the seed heads appear you can see where it gets it name with the blond coloration.  A terrific choice for a hot dry / xeric garden because it is quite drought tolerant after established.  Make sure this one has good drainage!

Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Hakonechloa macra – Japanese forest grass

ZONES: 5-9   HEIGHT: 1.5-2.5ft   SPREAD: 2-3+ft   SHADE/PART SHADE

DESCRIPTION:

I love this grass!  Commonly known as “the grass” for shade- which is true, but it can be way more than that.  Once it is established this grass has a beautiful almost weeding habit which gracefully smothers the ground, good luck weeds!  There are many chartreuse cultivars on the market, all of which I use- like ‘Aureola’, ‘All Gold’ and ‘Albo Striata’.  However, I am really addicted to the straight species green variety- just regular old Hakonechola macra.  Tuff to find on the market, that is why I grow my own, but well worth it when you do.  Macra can be planted in shade, part shade, and full sun!  This grass likes consistently moist, but well drained soil.   As the pictures below illustrate it can get quite girthy which I think is why I love it so much- a beautiful, low and wide grass.

Hakonechloa macra, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Hakonechloa macra, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Hakonechloa macra, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Sporobolus heterolepis- prairie dropseed

ZONES: 3-9   HEIGHT: 2-3ft    SPREAD: 2-3ft    FULL SUN

DESCRIPTION:

The quintessential North American native grass. The blades are floppy and finely texture which makes is a great grass to blend into a mixed border or planted in mass.  To see a great example of a prairie dropseed meadow be sure to visit the majestic Chanticleer Gardens.  This handsome grass send up beautifully scent airy plumes mid summer that persist into the winter.  Come fall the green foliage turns an attractive golden color for an added bonus.

Sporobolus heterolepis, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Sporobolus heterolepis, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Sporobolus heterolepis, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Schottland’- Scottish tufted hair grass 

ZONES: 4-6   HEIGHT: 2-3ft    SPREAD: 1-2ft    SHADE

DESCRIPTION:

This cool season grass gets going in the early spring with foliage emerging much earlier than other grasses.  The wispy seed heads dance gracefully above the low fine foliage.  This grass might win the grass I have shot most video of because of the way it sways in a light breeze.  The golden plumes stay on the grass until December or first major snow which quickly flatten.  Still worth it!  Schottland- preforms excellently in my garden (shown) in part shade.  Actually, needs a little bit of shade to really bloom well.

Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood  Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland’, 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’- Northwind switch grass

ZONES: 5-9   HEIGHT: 4-6ft    SPREAD: 2-2.5ft    FULL SUN/PART SHADE

DESCRIPTION:

Attractive wide blades of steel-blue is what draws me to this grass.  An extremely sturdy selection that I often use in designs for its textural qualities.  In September the plumes emerge to create a handsome grey haze with-in the top of the blades.  Introduced by renowned plantsman Roy Diblik this grass deserves an area in a sunny spot in your garden.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’- feather reed grass

ZONES: 5-9   HEIGHT: 3-5ft    SPREAD: 1-2.5ft    FULL SUN

DESCRIPTION:

An architectural grass with it’s stick straight plumes, feather reed grass creates a strong vertical accent in the landscape.  Straw color plumes decorate the summer months.  Used in mass or as specimen dance in a border this grass creates drama wherever you plant it.  Best suited in full sun.  Very drought tolerant once established.

Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Jazz’- Jazz little bluestem 

ZONES: 3-9   HEIGHT: 2-2.5ft    SPREAD: 1-1.5ft    FULL SUN

DESCRIPTION:

Looking for blue in your garden.  Jazz little bluestem, a North American native, offers a shorter non-flopping selection introduced by Brent Horvath form Intrinsic Perennials.  I often plant in pockets of 5-7 to create a bit of drama in a border.  Fall the blue turns a purple / mauve tone!

Schizachyrium scoparium 'Jazz', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Schizachyrium scoparium 'Jazz', 7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Here is a graphic listing for the seven grasses listed with their main details for quick reference pinning.  Email or comment with any questions.

7 Essential Ornamental Grasses, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Plant ID: Amsonia

My Work, Perennials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While talking plant options for our garden at home, I looked at the three varieties of Amsonia growing around our offices. I use this plant in my designs predominately for the texture of the foliage, however the flower is a strong attraction in the garden in late spring. Amsonia is the perfect plant to showcase the subtle variation between the different varieties.  The three varieties we grow are are Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, tabernaemontana, and hubrichtti.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

All the varieties are great for use in a perennial garden since they grow in a good sized clumps, flower from mid-spring to early summer, have great dense foliage and with some varieites (like hubrichtti) that provide a beautiful golden fall color.  Amsonia are great pollinators that require very little maintenance once established and are very tolerant to less than ideal soil.   It should be noted that one amsonia variety is not always a substitute for another so its important to know the different between each.  Below are the details on my favorite three varieties.

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

This cultivar is growing in a cluster at the edge of our gardens near a salvaged foundation stone. This species grows low, 1-1.5 feet tall and in a 1-1.5 foot cluster with very dense foliage that does a great job filling a border. It is low maintenance, deer proof and grows in full sun to part shade.  We have been growing this cluster for about 5 years and has preformed well from day one.  This cultivar has one of the best flowers of all the Amsonia and you can see by its beautiful blue color where it gets the name ‘Blue Ice’

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

 

 

Amsonia tabernaemontana

This species of amsonia is one of the taller selections. This plant reaches 2-3 feet and with much longer stalks. We are growing tabernaemontana in two locations in our gardens, and due to the amount of sun each location gets the plants vary a bit in size from the sun to more of a shady area, but has adapted well to both locations.  The flower is a pale / sky blue.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia tabernaemontana

 

Amsonia hubrichtti

In our garden I designed a “river” A. hubrichtti in a 35ft long band snaking through our ever changing west perennial bed. Growing between 2-3 feet tall.  I really like using this species for the extra fine foliage which is not often seen in the garden.  It is great grown in mass and also as an individual specimen.  This flower is the lightest in color of the three species almost white with a hint of blue.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia hubrichtti

 

Here is a comparison of the three species we are growing for a comparison. I have provided more detailed images to showcase the flowers and foliage shapes in images further below.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

 

The color and petals varies from each variety. By viewing just the blooms you can see the subtle changes in each of the five petal shapes.  (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)  It is really interesting to see how A. tabernaemontana really is the combination of the deep blue of ‘Blue Ice’ and the white/greens of  A. hubrichtti.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

 

You can also see the variation in the foliage shapes between the varieties below.  (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

 

All the photos from above were taken during the spring season (this or last week), but it helps to see the plants throughout the seasons. Below are two images of Amsonia hubrichtti from a clients home in June (green foliage) and October (golden color) to provide the seasonal progression of the plant.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Amsonia hubrichtti has to be one of the perennials with the best fall color.  In October the foliage turns a bight gold / yellow.  It is truly a major highlight of this species.

 Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Let me know if you have any other questions on these varieties of amsonia.

 

 

Bountiful Blooms with Longfield Gardens

Landscape Design, Perennials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood.

The National Garden Bureau has designated 2016 as the year of the allium! To celebrate, I have partnered with Longfield Gardens to design two perennial boarders highlighting the unique spring explosion of these rounded blooms.  I frequently include allium bulbs in my perennial border designs for their color, which goes with my typical cool palette, deer resistance, and unexpected texture. Since alliums are spring bulbs you plant in the fall, we’re sharing our first design now during its bloom; the second we’ll reveal in the fall, during planting season.  The bulbs and peonies included in this first design are available to purchase directly from www.longfield-gardens.com along with all the images and details of the design.

 

 

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood.Inspiration: The highlight of this garden is the rich jewel-tone blooms, which are a reprieve from the pastels and bright sunny hues often associated with spring gardens. The spherical, fluffy heads of alliums sway above the heavy, lush peonies in a dense English garden-style border. Rich fuchsia, amethyst and mauve-hued blooms are grounded by the shocking chartreuse foliage of the lady’s mantle (Alchemila mollis). The design also incorporates low-maintenance perennials like Dwarf Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), ‘Caradonna’ Sage (Salvia nemorosa) and ‘Little Spire’ (Perovskia atriplicifolia) to extend the beauty of this garden well past spring’s blooms.

 

 

implementingdesign

What excites me most about this partnership is the ability to implement the design. You get the knowledge of the supplier, designer and installer all in one design. I’ve shared all of the planting steps and tips for installing this garden design below, but be sure to visit Longfield Garden’s site for additional details, allium varieties and other spring flowering bulbs.

 

WHEN TO PLANT:

SPRING. You can start planting the perennials (the entire plant list expect the allium bulbs) as soon as your ground temperature reaches about 55 degrees. In Ohio, this is generally mid-April, but you can contact your local extension office for the specific date in your area. Planting early spring gives the plants a cool season to root and get well watered before the hot summer and provides a long growing season in the first year.  Find your local Extension HERE 

 

FALL. You can order your alliums starting in September from Longfield Gardens. Plant the bulbs once the ground has started to cool, which for us is normally mid-October to beginning of November. If they’re planted too early, the warm soil will rot the bulb.

 

SELECTING PERENNIALS:

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood. Details of peonies included in design.Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’ and Peony ‘Bunker Hill’ – These plants are shipped  bare root. When your plant arrives, store in a cool dark location until you are ready to plant.

 

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood. Details of Alliums included in design.

Alliums ‘Gladiator‘, ‘Purple Sensation’, christophill and drumstick – When these arrive as bulbs from Longfield in early September, store in a cool, dark location until you are ready to plant.

 

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood. Details of the perennials included in the design.

Lady’s Mantle, ‘Caradonna’ Sage, Cranesbill, Dwarf Catmint and Perovski ‘Little Spire’ Look for these perennials at your local garden center in 1-2 quart containers. They may offer larger sizes, but larger size does not guarantee better growing success, will cost more and require more work planting.

 

 

PREPPING FOR PLANTING:

When selecting the location for your border, look for a place that gets full sun. I recommend a location that gets really good southern light. These plants all do great up next to the house, along a driveway or along the property edges.  Once you have your location, prep the bed by tilling the soil and adding an organic matter. I use leaf compost made from the previous year’s clippings, but you can purchase a similar product from your local garden center. You want to make sure you are providing the best soil for the plants that drains well and has plenty of nutrients to help them establish and grow.

 

PLANTING:

When you have your bed prepped and plants purchased, use the design as a guide and place the plants still in their containers on the bed. This allows you to work out spacing before you start to dig. Start in the center of the bed and work out to the ends. If your bed is narrower or deeper that our 10ft x 18ft design, this will give you a chance to make some changes in spacing.

 

Once you are happy with your placement, you can start planting. If your design is against a building, start at the back and work forward. You want to plant in the harder to reach areas first and work your way out.  Regardless of where you are planting, I recommend planting the peonies last. You need to ensure that the eye of the plant is not placed more than ½- inch below the soil surface or you will not get prolific blooms.

Eye of peony - plant eye within .5-1 inch below hte soil surface. Test soil for moisture, properly watered soil will stick to your finger.  Details for planting Bountiful Blooms garden design from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood.

When you have everything planted, provide each plant with a deep watering. You can use a small overhead sprinkler. Proper moisture is the key to establishment. I do the finger test, stick your finger in the soil. If soil sticks to it, you are fine. If not, it’s too dry and you need to water.  After everything is watered you can go back and cover the bed with a leaf compost mulch. Keep the layer no more than one inch thick and a ½-inch ring away from each plant stock.

 

 

FIRST SUMMER MAINTENANCE:

The first year your garden will look good, the second year will be better, but the third year and beyond will be the ultimate pay off for all of your hard work.  For the first summer, cut back the plants a 2-3 times and deadhead after blooming. Since pushing blooms takes a lot of energy for the plant, cutting back blooms will send that energy into fortifying its root system instead, establishing the plant earlier.  Over the summer keep an eye on the plants to make sure they are getting adequate water (use finger test).

 

 

 

FALL ALLIUM PLANTING:

Use our bulb design for helping with placing the bulbs; you can place the bulbs before digging each hole to ensure you’re happy with your spacing.  We use a 4-6 inch auger bit to drill holes for the bulbs, but you can also use a hand shovel. Once you dig a hole, place bone meal as a starter fertilizer at the bottom of the hole. Once all the alliums are planted, you can place chopped up yard leaves over the bed. I prefer to cut back my perennials in the spring.

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood. Allium planting design for fall planting.

 

 

ALLIUM MAINTENANCE:

The following spring, keep your eyes open for the allium breaking through with the rest of your perennials. The alliums will require little to no maintenance from you. After the blooms are over, you can either cut back the stocks or keep the dried seed heads in the garden for their extra texture. For the bulbs, allow the foliage to die back naturally and you can pull by hand. This will ensure the bulb has stored enough energy/food for the next year.

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood.

 

Phew! I hope I provided all the details needed to give everyone the confidence to plant the design. Please let me know if you have any specific questions, I will be glad to help answer. Longfield created a great information sheet to print and use when planting and purchasing the plants (See Below). Also, Longfield Gardens has created a great landing page with the design and the ability to purchase the alliums and peonies directly. In September, we will release the second design just in time for ordering your allium bulbs.

 

Since this is the year of the allium, a few other bloggers have written about alliums throughout the week, each with a different experience and point of view. Check out the sites below:

 

Bountiful Blooms, a jeweled tone perennial border highlighting the spherical, fluffy heads of alliums from Longfield Gardens and Thinking Outside the Boxwood.