Grasses To Ornament The Garden 1.0
In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
Turn to ornamental grasses to please the eye and soothe the soul as they sway in the breeze. Be bold and create sweeping masses instead of planting only one or a handful of plants. Use the fine texture of ornamental grasses to contrast with larger-leaved plants. Combine two or more types of grasses to create a more natural look.
Grasses are available in an assortment of mature heights and spreads. Their foliage comes in a variety of colors and textures from super fine to coarse. Small birds and other wildlife consume the seeds of many grasses, while some are host plants for butterfly larvae.
Grasses are typically deer resistant and grow best in sun. Propagation is typically by seed or division. Ornamental grasses are low maintenance, typically requiring only a once a year early spring haircut (about six inches off the ground) if the foliage looks tattered. The resulting new emerging leaves usher in the new growing season and are soon moving in the wind. If there is some old foliage to remove in between trimming sessions, reach into the clump while wearing rubber gloves and stroke the leaves to coax out dead ones. We find the trimmed off and collected leaves are useful as mulch in low visibility areas.
The following are clumping grasses, and they slowly increase in girth by creeping rhizomes. Some self-seed and in our garden, they provide a source for new plants. They all thrive in Central Florida and often beyond.
Dwarf pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’) is native to the pampas of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. It reaches five to seven feet when in flower with a spread of three to four feet. The foliage is sharp-edged and requires gloves and long sleeves when being handled. The flower plumes are non-seed producing. It takes moist to dry soil conditions. Plant four feet apart in sun.
Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a native in the West Indies, eastern Mexico, and the southeastern United States. It reaches a 30 to 36-inch height and spread with lacy pinkish flower spikes rising above the thin pine needle-like leaves. When the flowers are backlit the effect is stunning. It grows in a wide range of soils from moist and dry conditions. Plant 30-inches apart in sun to light shade. There is also ‘White Cloud’, a white blooming version.
Sand cordgrass (Spartina bakeri) is a Florida native with narrow leaf blades that form rounded mounds with a three to five-foot height and spread. Its flowers are inconspicuous. It is salt tolerant, thrives in moist soil conditions, takes periodic inundation, and adapts to dry conditions. It is often found along lake and retention pond edges. Plant five feet apart in sun to light shade.
Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886/ firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.houzz.com/pro/hortusoasis/__public.
Credit: All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasis unless otherwise notedby