Quick question- When to plant? Recommendations?

lindsrocApril 10, 2013

I am looking to plant some ornamental grasses in the bed in front of the house to hide the foundation. I will include a pic. Can anyone tell me the best time to plant? Also I am in Eastern Mass and my house is facing south. We get sun from late morning/early afternoon on in the summer. Can anyone recommend some nice colored perennial grasses for this space? I would like some height but also looking to plant some flowers. I will be extending the bed to about 4 feet deep and also reshaping it soon.
Ok one more question.... when do you trim them? And do you prune them all the way to the ground?
Thank you!!!

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This is our design plan.....

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 1:58PM
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If the green "grass like" drawings are grasses :) then I have a few suggestions for you to google to see if they would be OK for your zone. Also to consider, what varieties are available in your area to purchase. I am, by no means, an expert, and there are a lot of grasses to choose from, so these are just a few suggestions:

At the end of the driveway, be sure you don't plant anything that is too tall. It could make it difficult to see traffic when backing out onto the street. Even though I have never grown it, I really like the look of blue fescue "Boulder Blue". From your drawing, red perennial flowers would look nice with the little blue mounds of grass.

Along the house sidewalk, I wouldn't plant a grass with too much height to block the view from your windows. A switch grass like Panicum "Shenandoah" (about 4' tall) with the blue turning to red later in the summer. It would be a nice contrast to the gray siding of your home and not overwhelm your garden space.

In the bed on the left, a pennisetum (fountain grass) like 'Karley Rose' would be pretty. It's only about 3' tall. If the round plants are shrubs, you may want a grass taller than the shrubs for height variety...

The grasses colors would work together and give you a variety in your yard. I'm just not sure what you want to see (or not see) when you look out of your windows.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 3:27PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Great suggestions from deb!
As an alternative to the Panicum ... you might consider one of the Calamagrostis arundinacea cultivars - 'Karl Foerster' is still my favorite but there are variegated cultivars if you prefer that. Advantages with this grass for the sidewalk location;
- medium height, narrow & upright - won't attack people going to your front door.
- one of the tallest of the cool season grasses, it will give you some interest & height very early on in the growing season. And .. the buff coloured seedheads will look fabulous against your grey wall!
note: the panicum fits the same; narrow, upright, not too tall criteria - it will just depend on your personal preference - do some google searches for images.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 7:56AM
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Great information!!!! Thank you both. This is very helpful and gives me a good starting point. Thank you for taking into consideration the spaces I have and what colors would look good.
Can I ask, do you leave the grass through the winter and then cut it back right before spring? A lot of people around here have some beautiful gardens with a lot of ornamental grasses, and it seems as though they leave them in a "dead" state through the winter and then cut them low right before spring. Is this correct?
Off to google those varieties! Thanks again :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 8:34AM
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Just to add I do want something with height in front of the walkway, so tall is good. :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:10AM
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People leave the "dead" grasses for what's called winter interest.

Last fall I cut my newly planted grasses down to about 24" after they browned out. I did that on the theory that the winter winds might damage the newbies. I'll probably leave them with the dried flower tops next winter.

Normally you would cut back in the spring before new growth begins but after threat of hard frost. Each variety may have their own rules for cut down height.

My concern for planting too tall a variety along the walk way was your ability to see the garden at the end of the drive from looking out of your window.

Personally, I want my gardens to look nice from the street and complement my home, of course, but I plant them for me to view while inside my house.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Thank you Deb. I think you are having the same thought process as I am....I want something nice to look at from inside as well as out. I definitely dont want to block the windows, but maybe ending right below where the window starts would be fine. Can you shape or trim the grasses if they get too tall?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:40AM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

shaping or trimming grasses - certainly possilble ...
BUT .... ick!
Quite a bit of an O.G.'s appeal is it's shape. If you want something to stay in place & be trimmable - choose a shrub.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 9:43AM
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There are so many variables when choosing grasses. I'd try to choose a grass that is the size (at maturity) that you want. The plume height (when it "blooms") will vary among grasses and is something to consider in the height decision...

Some grasses will grow more straight up and others will arch more (think water fountain). Some will stay in a tighter "clump" and some (for lack of a better description) grow broader.

Some grasses change different colors (summer & fall) and some have variegated leaves. So that can get interesting.

Some grass will "do-nut" and are a hassle to divide and replant, especially if they have sharp blade like leaves. Try to find out if there are possible maintenance headaches with certain grass that you may not care to tackle.

This spring and early summer, while you are getting your beds ready, it might be a good time to visit local nurseries. Check out the different grasses that they offer and make a list of the ones you particularly like. Notice the appearance of the grass in their exhibit gardens. Take your list of favorites home and take your time to do even more in depth research at home.

I'd suggest to get everything else in place this year and notice the grass (that you think you like) growing in other gardens. Then make the final grass purchase late summer/early fall or even wait until next year.

It's good that you are planing ahead and asking questions. The more you research, the better decision you will make choosing grasses for your pretty front gardens.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 6:38PM
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Thank you deb..... That was a lot of good info! I have been doing a lot of googling and looking at neighbors yards etc. when would you say is the best time to plant?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 8:11PM
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I think it's safe to say, definitely not in the middle of hot summer. Planting is stressful for any plant, adding summer heat and dry, that stresses it even more.

To the best of my knowledge you can plant grasses in late summer/early fall, allowing enough time to settle in before winter.

I believe planting time can vary with variety selection. There are both warm weather and cool weather grasses. That factor will probably also determine planting time.

Once selections are decided upon, more research is needed for the planting time and other questions to be answered. You might also ask the people at the nursery for advise specific to your grass of choice and growing zone.

Good luck on your quest,

This post was edited by Dgregory on Mon, Apr 15, 13 at 17:09

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 5:08PM
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