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Article: GRASS GARDENS

Created on: Monday, June 09, 2003

A planting of ornamental grasses is a somewhat unusual sight: a variety of grasses, sedges and rushes combined to form a garden.

Ornamental grasses bring a different texture and "feel" to the perennial garden. Grasses become animated with a gentle breeze. A garden of mental grasses canhold its appeal year-round. Tall, rustling plumes of grasses such as Miscanthans remain showy through winter's snow cover. Ornamental grasses go beyond basic green; varieties are available in shades of blue, red, purple, brown, and gold. Many variegated grasses are also available.

The many shapes and sizes of ornamental grasses make them adaptable and useful. Tall grasses may serve as borders or back drops for other plants. They are also effective as screeningin the landscape. Shorter grasses can work well as ground covers in many instances and some ornamental grasses are even suited to container culture.

The most frequently grown ornamental grasses are perennials. They have two basic growth habits -- running or creeping, and clumping. The clump grasses spread and increase in size relatively slowly when compared to the creeping grasses. Some creeping grasses may become invasive.
If selected properly for the garden site, most ornamental grasses have few problems and maintenance will be minimal. Cutting back foliage is perhaps the single most important rule for growing attractive plants. With few exceptions annual cutting is recommended. Foliage should be cut back just before a new season's growth appears. Spring bulbs interplanted among the grasses will take attention away from pruned back grass foliage. Many ornamental grasses are drought tolerant once they have become established, although most will do better if mulched with a two to three-inch layer of wood chips, bark, or compost.

Most selected cultivars of ornamental grasses are propagated from plant division. Division is the reliable way to ensure the characteristics of the plant remain true to that of the cultivar. Ornamental grasses are available for many garden situations. There are ...

Drought - Tolerant Grasses, such as Feather Reed Grass, Maiden Grass, and Switch Grass;

Grasses Tolerant of Wet Sites, such as Tufted Hairgrass, Japanese Silver Grass, and Ribbon Grass;

Grasses Tolerant of Light Shade, such as Perennial Quaking Grass, Maiden Grass, Fountain Grass, and forms of Ribbon Grass.

Try some of these useful landscape ornamentals in your garden this year!

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