Favorite grasses and how to make them shine

Miscanthus species

The winter Solstice is fast approaching, but I want to linger in summer and fall seasons to give you a few more favorite plants. What a great extended fall season we just experienced; the warm temperatures enabled the ornamental grasses to really show off their plumes in the sun which arched lower and lower in the horizon each day. The strange place I noticed this most is in the parking lot of my grocery store. The late afternoon sun behind all the plumes of the switch grass planted along the edge of the bioswales (search that term for an interesting side trip in sustainable landscapes and rain gardens) always made me pause and enjoy the view. I don’t think I made excuses to go shopping more often, but I did find myself anticipating this view as I turned into the parking area.

Many of the taller ornamental grasses like Heavy Metal Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) and Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’) have wonderful plumes and blades become much more intense when the sun can provide a backdrop in the early morning or late afternoon. If ornamental grasses are to capture this dramatic sun light in your landscape, place them in a location where the sun will be “in back” of the grasses from a frequented viewing spot like a well used patio or breakfast nook windows. The sun will always provide that great light to the grasses, but the trick is to make sure the grasses are planted in a location that provides you with a view of the show.

Another way to heighten the presence of ornamental grasses is to plant them next to shrubs and perennials that possess brilliant fall color; this kind of grouping starts to create a fall landscape full of textures and colors that rivals the flowers of summer. Ornamental grasses also provide interest to the winter garden by adding upright structure, color and texture. In summer, they provide a lush green texture that compliments many types of plantings

The two grasses mentioned above are easy to find, grow well here and were two I particularly enjoyed this past summer and fall, but there are many diverse ornamental grasses to consider.