Discovering the beauty of ornamental grasses has taken its time with me. Maybe it was the lack of exceptional colour from blooms that perennials give me, or maybe that they look like bundles of straw sticking out of the ground. It is a new area for me and after noticing that grasses are hugely popular for fall and winter it got my attention. They add height and motion to the garden, they are low maintenance, drought tolerant, and grow quickly. They also make excellent companion plants in beds, containers or as a focal point, and attract birds all year round. Different grasses may grow from ankle-high to over-your-head – in soft mounds, straight spikes, feathery fronds or arching cascades – but most fall into one of two categories: clump-forming or spreading. Clump-forming maintain their compact shape, but spreading varieties may become invasive in the garden.
There are two types of grasses – cool season and warm season.
Cool season ornamental grasses usually begin to grow in early spring, and many remain semi-evergreen over the winter. Some require a mid-summer cut-back to ensure fresh foliage for fall. Cool season grasses thrive when given ample amounts of water. Division can usually be done in either spring or fall to keep them healthy. They will grow in many types of soil, making them ideal for places in your yard where other plants won’t grow. Warm season ornamental grasses thrive during warmer times of year and can withstand high temperatures and humidity. Warm season grasses, unlike cool season, do not show growth until soil is warm. They usually become brown in the fall and require only a cut-back in early spring before new growth commences. They do not require as frequent division as cool season grasses.
For my colder zone, cool season grasses are ideal and will make a lasting show through winter. In winter, grasses such as Calamagrostis, Deschampsia and Miscanthus will shine through the frosts showing off their silhouettes against the snow.
Trying to resist the feathery-loveliness of Pampas grass isn’t easy. Even if Southern gardeners are afraid of it escaping the landscape and attacking someone with its razor sharp leaves … still, I adore it from afar (ie. photos). What I find most interesting is the pink Pampas grass. So pretty, and the height is amazing. But Pampas grass only survive in zone 8-11. I like to think I would take on this type of ornamental grass in the garden if I lived in a warmer climate. Would I dare say that if I did live somewhere tropical?