July 26, 2011

Light as a Feather Grass

Light textures. Movement. Soft brushes of delicate threads form a fountain of fluff among the heaviness of shrubs.

A favorite ornamental grass is stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass). Shown with two different spirea varieties, the grass texture breaks up the monotony of the shrubs. Stipa gently sways with the breeze, glistens with morning dew and lightens up the density of the surrounding plants.

Ornamental grass, stipa tenuissima, separates
two varieties of spirea flowering shrubs in May.
Deep pink blooms of Spirea 'Neon Flash' are backed
by a fountain of stipa grass.
When growing ornamental grasses, I proceed with caution. My husband will ban any grass that sows seeds prolifically in the gravel driveway or garden paths. So far, he has banned eragrostis (love grass). He says there's nothing to love about that grass!

In 2010, I planted six stipa.  Given that this grass is considered invasive in some of the western states, I am closely monitoring it for seeds.

Three stipa are planted with the spirea and three are in place for another garden spot that is undergoing renovation. So far, I've found no seedlings in the garden. However, I've decided to be cautious when the garden wanes this year and proactively deadhead the tips. As gardeners, we must always be aware of the risk associated with the plants we grow.

This grass is rated for zones 7a-10b, but if it doesn't overwinter again, I will grow it as an annual grass. Stipa is deer, rabbit and drought resistant, making it a very suitable plant to grow—provided it doesn't misbehave.

What's your experience with stipa? Love it or hate it? Well-behaved or a thug?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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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