Monrovia Plant Savvy
design, inspiration and practical ideas from the plant experts. September 2013
fall in love with grasses

Dear Savvy Gardener,


Grasses planted in masses!  This Regal Mist Pink Muhly has glossy green foliage and airy pinkish-red flowers that bloom in the late summer and early fall. As a breeze blows by, it's as though the garden is waving goodbye to summer. Ever see those patent medicine ads of the 1800s... which claim that their tonics could cure everything from headaches and insomnia to gout and poor eyesight? It's sort of like that when we talk about all the wonderful attributes of Ornamental Grasses -- the claims are almost hard to believe! They are low maintenance, great for hedges and privacy plantings, and do well in containers. They attract birds for seeds and nesting, yet many grasses deter deer browsing. Grasses add texture, fall color and they bloom when the rest of the late summer garden is looking a little ragged. You can tuck a few into existing boarders or perennial beds, or plant en masse for a big wow! Display them in a vase with cut flowers, or even on their own. No wonder Ornamental Grasses have become so popular in the past few years.

gorgeous grasses
  Bowles Golden Sedge
leafgif   eye-catching edging

The low-growing varieties, like Sedge, can create an attractive edging in a perennial border or tucked into a rock garden. Try Bowles Golden Sedge, with its striking yellow foliage. Sparkler has brilliant green and white foliage and an interesting shape – sort of like mini palm trees. Fox Red Curly Sedge has clumps of red-bronze foliage that fades to flax at the tips. We love the silvery-green, very narrow, recurving leaf blades with hair-like curls of Frosty Curls... giving the illusion of flowing water when planted on hillsides or allowed to spill over a wall.

  Morning Light Maiden Grass leafgif  

different sorts of hedges

Taller grasses can make wonderful hedges or privacy plantings. Morning Light Maiden Grass will reach six feet tall, and its green and creamy-white blades create a shimmering silvery look. Porcupine Grass has a nice upright habit and interesting green blades with horizontal yellow striping. Adagio Maiden Grass is a real stunner with silvery-green arching foliage that turns orange, gold and burgundy in the fall. In late summer through winter, it is covered in plumes of bronzy-pink that fade to white.

  Overdam Feather Reed Grass leafgif  

easy-to-grow grasses

Feather Reed Grasses add a nice vertical element to the garden. Their strong, colorful stalks work well in cut flower arrangements. Overdam's feathery blooms emerge reddish-brown in summer and turn golden in fall. Its seeds attract flocks of birds, but the seeds are sterile and won't set unwanted seedlings. Foerster's, which was named the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year, blooms earlier and longer than most varieties, emerging reddish-brown in spring and turning golden in the fall. Korean has especially showy, feathery pink flower plumes.

  Prairie Sky Blue Switch Grass
leafgif   native grasses

Native grasses are popular for eco-friendly garden designs, like the colorful foliage of Switch Grass. Not only do they add interest, their seed heads provide food for birds. They are hardy to Zone 4 – 9. Rigid metallic-blue blades give Heavy Metal Blue its name, and then the foliage turns bright yellow in the fall. Shenandoah is prized for its unmatched red-tipped green foliage that darkens through summer, turning burgundy in fall. Another excellent native is The Blues Little Bluestem. Its blue-green foliage turns flaming orange in the fall.

  All Gold Japanese Forest Grass
leafgif   in the Zen garden

Ornamental Grasses have a nice way of softening hardscape and work well adjacent to swimming pools, ponds, walkways and garden sculpture. Japanese Forest Grass, named Perennial Plant of the Year in 2009, has a clumping shape, and its feathery foliage has a bamboo-like appearance, making it ideal to incorporate into a Zen garden. Try the vibrant All Gold – its stunning yellow-gold color will brighten a shady spot. Fubuki, which means snowstorm in Japanese, has snow white and green variegated foliage that gets pretty pink and rose tones in the fall.