Natives · Ornamental Grasses · Outdoor · Seasonal · Sun-loving Plants

Ornamental Grasses

What looks good in the garden in November?  Grasses!

This is the 2nd week of November and the zinnias are long-gone; the last of the hosta leaves have been raked away; most of the perennials have died back and gone dormant for the winter; and the last of the lily bulbs’ stalks have been cut back.  But the grasses in my garden are still growing strong.  Such show-offs.  The fancy plumes on the top are poking through, making them actually look better than ever.

I personally overlooked grasses my first 5 years of gardening.  I did not garden at all with grasses in my first two gardens.  I first noticed and loved purple fountain grass.  It is an annual grass that my mother-in-law grew in her pots in RI, and I tried that one first.  It taught me the benefits of having an ornamental grass in the garden.  I love that particular grass and still grow it in my pots every summer, but it is no different than an annual because it is not hardy in my zone 5 garden.  Another annual grass I couldn’t live without in my pots each summer is King Tut grass.  This one was hard for me to find this past summer so I am trying to overwinter it inside this year as a house plant; will let you know in a future blog if that is successful.

IMG_2651I have successfully grown several varieties of grasses in my garden for years.  One of my favorites and a must-have for every garden is zebra grass.  I prefer the taller version.

Another grass I have successfully grown and would recommend is Variegatus Miscanthus, or Japanese Silver Grass.  This one can be a thug.  On the bright side, it will look full and established within just a few years.  It can then be divided for other parts of your garden or to share with friends.

My newest favorite grass is Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass.  It is like learning a new word.  I now see it everywhere and after asking about it, have planted several.

Another grass I have grown for winter interest in the view from my kitchen window is a pampas-like grass; it is very tall and the plumes move in the winter wind.  This variety is called Japanese switch grass.  I also have a friend who grows it as a hedge in the very back of their yard, and it provides nice privacy from the bike path.

There are even grasses that will grow in shade.  I have not grown the shade-loving ornamental Japenese forest grass myself, but see it again and again in gardening magazines and I just love it.  Another shade grass is Aureola Hakone Grass; it can be found at Jung Garden Center.

Why should you grow an ornamental grass in your garden?

  1. You won’t find a lower-maintenance plant.
  2. They make a great hedge for privacy or to create a dividing border.
  3. They are easy to grow.
  4. All sorts of varieties are out there:  shade or sun, poor soil, tall or wide or short.
  5. They are long-lasting and will look good for 3 solid seasons.

Grasses should not be overlooked as key tools in landscaping.  Not only can they provide a very nice hedge for privacy, but they also make a nice statement at the end of a garden bed, like a punctuation mark.  They also do a great job filling space and suppressing weeds.

Not a whole lot looks great in my yard right now, and the past week has been unusually warm for a typical November Wisconsin day.  So it has been fun hanging out on my outdoor couch with my kids, surrounded by the beauty of the tall grasses, and watching the plumes blow back and forth in the wind.

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