MINTER: Grasses are an easy way to add to your garden

The appreciation of ornamental grasses is still skyrocketing. However, it takes a while to understand the nature of each variety of grass and to see what it looks like during every season of the year.  Yes, they have their down times, but this little hiccup is easily overshadowed by their many fine qualities.

Most grasses, once established in a site they enjoy, are virtually carefree: a little watering in summer, a little protection in winter and an annual pruning. They all have fresh new growth in late spring, attractive flowers in autumn and an interesting look even in winter.  Late summer breezes cause their leaves and stems to sway, adding not only life and movement to a garden but also the sound of rustling foliage.

Many grasses, such as miscanthus, which really plumes up in late summer, literally shine when backlit by the warm golden sunlight so unique to fall. For many winters I’ve enjoyed evergreen grasses, such as carex, gently caressing the edges of hanging baskets and containers. Grasses have so much to offer. We just have to learn how to use them properly.

My three favourite grass families are the miscanthus, pennisetums and carex. Miscanthus are medium to tall showpieces that make great focal points in mid-sized or large gardens. Their fall flowers not only add a spark to autumn gardens, but they also continue through the winter until heavy snows or winds take their toll. They make a great screen by mid-June and their bronze flower tufts are truly magnificent.

The most sought after miscanthus, however, is porcupine grass.  This six-foot-tall grass has gold bands along its leaves and a tall upright habit, making it especially elegant.

The most beautiful grass of all, bar none, is purple fountain grass. Alas, to survive our winters this variety must be brought inside a greenhouse, but it is the focal point of all focal points. Surrounded by anything pink, it is magnificence plus.

Each fall and winter, we’ve been using more and more carex along with evergreen perennials to create some pretty amazing effects.  My all time favourite is carex morrowii evergold. There are so many new varieties of carex coming out the past few years it’s really hard to keep up.

Folks, if you’re new to grasses, proceed slowly. Try a few this fall and see how they can heighten the effect of your late summer, fall and winter garden. I like to plant them fairly close together for an instant effect and to choke out weeds.


The basic rule, however, is to plant them as far apart as their height.  The grasses I have mentioned are not invasive and they will all add a whole new dimension to your late summer and fall garden.



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