September 11, 2008

Great Grasses for the Garden

For spectacular height in your garden, try an ornamental grass such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Cosmopolitan’. Throughout the summer, the wide variegated green and white grass blades provide a wonderful background companion for perennials with rich bloom colors in orange, purple, and deep blue or bright red. I use Echinacea ‘Sundown’, verbena ‘Homestead Purple’ and agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ around my Cosmopolitan. The color doesn't fade and the 'Cosmopolitan' never looks tired in the heat. Nor does it fall over in the rain.

I planted a three gallon 'Cosmopolitan' in the spring 2007. Right now, the tassels have taken this ornamental grass to a lofty 7’h x 3’w that will remain interesting through the winter. I have this grass planted on the east side of the house in the butterfly garden. It is especially beautiful backlight with the morning sun on a frosty or snowy morning. This grass doesn’t fall over and the fountain shape is beautiful. This grass works for zones 6-9.

Maintenance is easy. I cut ornamental grasses back in late winter or early spring about the same time that I cut back buddleia and trim lavender. It’s an easy keeper and I’ve had no problems with seedlings appearing around this grass. I can’t say the same for my Eragrostis (blue love grass), a heavy seeding ornamental grass that I am now in the process of eradicating from my garden. I love the soft, billowy plumes of my Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass), but those are exiled to the meadow so that I’m not injured by the sharp blades while working in my perennial gardens.

If you don’t want a grass as tall as Miscanthus ‘Cosmopolitan’, then consider Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Zebra’. 'Little Zebra' is a few feet shorter with yellow/green banded foliage in the same beautiful fountain shape. While I use it for the foliage, the yellow banding is soft enough to compliment perennials in soft shades of yellow, violet or blue. All summer long, 'Little Zebra' provides lush green fountain-shaped foliage along my garden path. In the fall, it shoots up straight bronze plumes that create a see-through veil of interest in the garden.

Whichever miscanthus you choose, you can't miss with these two ornamental grasses. With interest in summer, fall and winter, these grasses are worth having in the garden. If I had the space, I would try more of the miscanthus grasses such as 'Little Kitten' and 'Morning Light'. When there are no blooms, try plumes!

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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