It’s hard to get fired up about these dried up plants in the winter garden, looking brown and dead. We know in our hearts that the plant juice is still pumping underground, but honestly, knowing that doesn’t make them any more attractive. Except for the grasses. It is all about the movement, as one looks out the window, watching the birds flit around the feeders, the slightest breeze bends those slender blades of grass here and yon.
Shown above,blue oat grass, helictotrichon sempervirens, ‘Blue Saphhire’.
Reading Pam at Digging’s January 22, 2008 post ‘Miscanthus In Winter’ reminded me of the stalwart grasses pulling the load of winter interest. Shown above, miscanthus ‘Morning Light’.
Sometimes the grasses do a better job of growing than one expects. It has been mentioned in an early post that we bought the house next door, tore it down and built a garage there. That left us with two driveways into the street. We made a circle drive, a longtime dream come to reality. That created an island bed bordered by the street on one side and the half circle of the driveway on the other. The vision was two large pampas grasses ,cortaderia selloana, at either end, Big Pampa. You may not believe this, but a six pack of tiny pampas seedlings was found at the grocery among the begonias and marigolds that first year after the driveway was paved. They were about three inches tall, with two or three blades in each cell. Three cell’s worth were combined at each end of the driveway island. Four years later, the flower spikes were ten feet tall.
These had become monster grasses, way beyond the vision of gently swaying plumes. The dried winter blades also blew all over the neighborhood, and they were sharp. You can probably see what’s coming.
Cut down and dug out, at great cost of a broken english shovel. There may be lovers of the look of the pampas, but let me steer you to be sure and select the dwarf variety if you simply must have it.
In that same driveway island bed was planted some of the black seeded pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, along with red twig dogwoods. The rumor is true about this grass being a rampant self sower, but the island bed is a safe spot for it, the babies are welcome here.
Another grass that is much loved at Faire Garden, Japanese blood grass,imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’, has appeared on some of the bad plant lists as well. It does not spread wildly here, I have to help it along, transplanting pieces in early spring and late fall to help fill in. The vision is a sea of red.
There is one grass that we prize above all others, pink muhly grass, muhlenbergia capillaris.
We are at the northern range of its hardiness in our zone 7a, but it has wintered over without fail for seven years now. The first plant was purchased at Lowe’s. It has been divided and seeded to produce enough plants for nearly every area of the garden. Too much is not enough.
In late September the thicker blades shoot up above the rest to reveal the flower spike. It reminds us of cotton candy.
A companion of the mums, holding the pink color well over a month, this is the show piece of the fall garden.
It is best viewed with the sunlight behind to get the other worldly hue.
It is a perfect foil for the bronze pink dogwood leaves and the darker pink Knockout rose. There are many more grasses grown here. They all are held dear and perform their tasks well. Low edgers, tall accents, black, blue, gold, green, red and variegated add beauty and contrasting form to the leaves and flowers of their neighbors. But none have the wow factor like the pink muhly in bloom.
This vision is pink,
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