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

Olbrich Botanical Gardens – Madison Wisconsin

G A R D E N S, Garden Tours, Gravel, Landscape Design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back in August, we made a family road trip out of attending the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) conference in Minneapolis, MN. On the drive up to the conference we made a stopover in Chicago at the Lurie Garden (See post HERE), and on the way home we stopped at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI and the Chicago Botanical Garden (I am lucky that the kids still enjoy visiting gardens as a vacation).

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, gravel garden - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Olbrich was a planned stop on the way home, however after hearing Jeff Epping, the Director of Horticulture at Olbrich, speak at the PPA conference, we left Minneapolis early to ensure we got ample time in the gardens. Our time was a little more compressed than planned with a Midwest storm approaching, but hands down one of the best botanical gardens I have visited.  The 16 acres features amazing rooms that transition you from different spaces almost disorientating your direction and allowing you be in awe of each different experience.

Jeff’s talk at the PPA conference was about the gravel gardens they have installed at Olbrich. The method involves planting hardy plants in a base of 3-5 inches of gravel to fend of weeds and provide a low-water lifelong solution. The plants will grow into soil below the gravel for water and nutrients, and the inches of gravel will prohibit weeds from growing. Overtime the plants will grow to cover the gravel for a dense planting. The requirements of the planting method require attentive watering while the roots mature to the soil level and vigilant removal of plant debris at cutback and while establishing. My first few photos here are of one of the four gravel gardens at Olbrich.

I have known of Olbrich for a few years and it was always on my list of place to visit and I am so happy my travels to me there.  Olbrich is a garden destination that needs to be high on your list.  For a plant nerd, design nerd, or just looking for a stroll in a beautful garden- it will not disappoint.  I hope you enojoy my photo journal!

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, gravel garden- Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens, gravel garden - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens, Prairie Dropseed  - Sporobolus heterolepis - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens, Prairie Dropseed  - Sporobolus heterolepis - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens , Prairie Dropseed  - Sporobolus heterolepis - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens, Prairie Dropseed  - Sporobolus heterolepis - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Thai Pavilion and Garden - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens , Thai Pavilion and Garden - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens,Thai Pavilion and Garden  - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Thai Pavilion and Garden  - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Thai Pavilion and Garden - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood   Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodOlbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood  Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison Wisconsin, Thinking Outside the Boxwood