Now is the perfect time to consider planting ornamental grasses in your garden and landscape. They provide excellent fall and winter aesthetics, in their late “flowers” (seed heads), that are prominent in the fall season, and their foliage, which persists into the fall and winter months, long after they have went dormant after the growing season, yet looks spectacular and adds much to the landscape during that desolate time of year. There is a huge assortment of different varieties that are available here in central Ohio that are extremely hardy and each offers unique ornamental qualities to the landscape. Also, the selection keeps expanding, with quite a few new varieties being introduced in the past few years.
The largest group is the Maiden grasses (Miscanthus), available in many varieties with a vast array of ornamental attributes. They have tremendous seed heads that come into fruition this time of year, prominently displaying much color and interest in the fall garden. The stems of many of these varieties also start turning colors this time of year, ranging from pink to purple to even reddish, providing highlight to the landscape during the waning autumn months. Some of the more popular varieties: Dwarf Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘gracillimus’) is very popular and known for its mid-range height (5-6’) and growth habit that is densely compact with fine foliage of silvery undertones that along with its gorgeous large seed heads make it a striking staple in our fall landscape. Another popular variety is Morning Light Maiden Grass, known for its variegated foliage of a prominent white and green combination and compact growth habit (3’). ‘Adagio’ is another good choice. Being very similar to ‘Gracillimus” but with a compact growth habit (4’-4’). Also available are Zebra and Porcupine Grass, known for their striping that runs sideways across the stem rather than longitudinally. ‘Gold Bar’ is a new variety of this type of variegation that is extremely prominent. These varieties add both color and interest to the fall landscape. Another great species to consider are the Feather Reed Grasses (calamagrostis). They form gorgeous compact plants that work well in landscape beds (3’x3’). The seed heads form early in the season and look terrific throughout the fall and into the winter. All of the grasses discussed so far work well not only in landscapes but also as borders or covering fences and utility boxes.
There is also a lot of interest in grasses that are smaller and more colorful, and there are several new varieties grown for their foliage color. Firstly, the Purple Fountain Grass is very popular and looks terrific in beds and containers, with the resplendent purplish red foliage lasting the entire season. However, it is NOT hardy in this area and does not overwinter. There are some newer varieties that are hardy and have reddish color. One is the Red Head Fountain Grass, which has purplish red seed heads that appear mid-summer and last through the fall. Another is the Rose Fountain Grass, with the foliage taking on a reddish purple hue in the mid-summer, along with the purple seed heads appearing at that time. There is also the Burgundy Bunny Fountain Grass, a sport of the popular Little Bunny, and Japanese Blood Grass, that have a maroon red tint to the foliage and seed heads. Golden Hakone Grass and Variegated Liriope are also great selections. They add gold colors to the landscape and have slow spreading forms.
-Provided by Oakland New Albany