Recommendation for north side foundation

OKGirl80June 6, 2011

Looking for any recommendations for the north side of my house. Area doesn't receive hardly any direct sun as it's shadowed by the overhang of the roof. I'd like to stay with grasses since that's what's on the front side of the house. It'll most likely be a single row of grasses used like a row of shrubs. Just some to add a little visual interest since that side faces the road.

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I have had very good luck with Mexican Feather Grass in the shade. Quite a bit of shade as a matter of fact. Its always listed for full sun but it sends up so many volunteers that I let them alone and they don't look any different than the ones in part sun or full sun. Do you get any sun at all? I have some large fully blooming ones that came up volunteer in the back under a big old pecan tree a couple years ago and those hardly get any direct sun except for a tiny bit now and then when it manages to crack through the dense foliage. However they do get sun in early spring so that might make a difference. I am trying some others in a shady area and so far they look just like all the others. I think the fact that it is a naturally weeping grass helps too. It won't flop because it flops naturally and each one flops in the same direction which looks nice and windswept. they are very easy from seed (too easy) but need cool weather to germinate (November through March). I see them for sale everywhere, however. Mine are about 3ft tall and 4ft wide. Yellow green with white seed heads so its very bright.

The other full shade selections are for the most part, in my opinion. rather dismal. Small grasses and boring grasses.

Except...Maybe the carex, like 'red rooster' or 'buchananii'? They both look rather rustic (naturally coffee colored or reddish with very fine hair-like blades) if you want to keep that theme going. You might check out some of the various carex types. I saw some large 'Buchananii' at TLC last week and walked across the store just to check out "What is THAT>>>>>!". I want one now. They are not very tall, however.

There are the Chasmanthium types which are grassy "green" but they take shade (moist). I can think of a lot of other plants other than grasses I'd choose if that were my only option, but its all a matter personal choice.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 2:18AM
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I didn't even think about the Mexican Feather grass but I really like that one. I'm pretty sure I saw it at Atwoods, too. I think one of the nurseries close by has the rooster grass as well. I remember it wasn't anything special but I'll google some pics.

It's definitely not a deep shade. It's still pretty bright and may receive a little bit of full sun just be sunset.

If I was to go the seed route, can I just sow directly in the ground in the fall?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 8:53AM
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Linked below is a page which lists ornamental grasses by Landscape Uses, including a list of shade tolerant grasses.

As far as starting Nassella tenuissima from seed, IMO it's always better to sow seed into some sort of cells or containers. Sowing it in situ leaves it too exposed to being eaten by birds, washed away by rain, etc..

N. tenuissima does not require cold temperatures to germinate. It favors ~68ðF, but is very erratic in it's germination time, taking anywhere from 10-90 days or more. Some resources indicate "smoke" speeds up germination.

As CG noted, it reseeds freely in warm climates, so once you have some growing, you'll be able to dig up and move volunteers forever after.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ornamental Grass Landscape Uses

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 5:23PM
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I know its invasive with the seeds, but you just cannot beat this Mexican Feather grass for form and beauty (especially massed) and how it also looks so pretty in winter. Its one of the easiest grasses to grow. Controlling seedlings is the only problem but they are easy to pull out.

I found by trial and error that leaving them untrimmed in Spring is best. Another plus.

Late last summer, I planted new sprigs of Mexican Feather grass seed spaced out in various spots by just putting a number of seeds into each hole, very shallowly and patting down and then forgetting them. They came up in fall and wintered over. Very easy. One single plant will put out many seeds so if you buy some, you will forever have as many as you will ever need. I have always direct sowed them and just remove volunteers I don't want or move them where I do. Mostly I just move any plants that come up if I want one somewhere. They are a cheap experiment and I have been very surprised how versatile they are in tolerance. Clay, sand shade, sun........

This grass is real easy to find at garden centers in pots around here because it is so popular. In my opinion, if they do not do good in your shady spot, they can be moved in early spring easily. They do not move well in hot weather however.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 1:35AM
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I think that's what I will do in the fall. I found several pictures of border beds with just a row of the MFG spaced out evenly. The seeds will allow me to do this cheaply.

I ran Atwoods yesterday and they had one left. It was the only grass that looked decent at all. The rest were all brown and curled up. Usually their plants look pretty good, but this year they have been awful. I'm hoping SRG will still have some in a couple weeks when my school money comes in.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:12AM
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Oh, Wow, I love the idea of Mexican Feather Grass on the north (front) side of my house. I have removed all the old "mustache" shrubs and plan to enlarge the bed, making it curved. My plan would be to have a few evergreen foundation shrubs then in front of that a large planting of the Mexican Feather Grass with a path through to the side gate. Right now there is Asian Jasmine in the bed. Would like your ideas - I am thinking I would remove the Asian Jasmine as it does need trimming down each spring. Any other grasses that would compliment the Mexican Feather Grass?

My front yard gets some sun and bright shade through 40 year-old trimmed Red Oak Tree. I live in Dallas/Ft Worth area, clay soil that will be amended.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 1:00PM
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You could try the improved Little Bluestem or even just the regular species if there's enough sun. I have some that do good in just half day, morning sun. They are better in full sun, but they don't flop in less. The textures work very nice together and so do the colors, especially with the really blue ones. Looks very soft at night when that Mexican Feather Grass really glows and that light color it has should also look nice in front of darker colors like the foundation shrubs you mentioned.

Another plus for the bluestem is they like clay and lean soils so you might not have to amend. It grows wild around here and probably you have it down there by Dallas as well? The Mexican Feather Grass likes sandy but I read it will take any kind of soil. I added sand for mine. Neither of these grasses mind this drought we are in either and will take what our summers can give them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 4:02PM
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Cactusgarden, thanks for the suggestion of Little Bluestem, I have seen it and think the colors would go together too! I can amend with sand, not a problem

Recently my landscape contractor son put in edging and 40 yards of landscape soil along my 70' fence in the back yard; he made a slight berm, it solved a slight drainage problem along there. A blank slate, and I do plan to put a lot of grasses in there too along with Texas native plants, shrubs and a couple of rambler roses. The bed is anywhere from 15' - 40' wide, am really looking forward to planning it. Then on to the front area!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 1:00PM
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Wish I could see it when you're done. A blank slate is what I started with too. Its the best way I think.

I've been collecting Texas natives for a couple of years now, I love them! I am now growing muhly deergrass, big muhly (Linheimerri), seep muhly, pine muhly and riverchonii (sp?) muhly, that one from the Oklahoma/Texas border. I've got some snakeweed and turpentine bush going and a bunch of other range types you can't buy in stores that a woman from Austin sent seeds of. Its my favorite look. I am wanting one called Plains greasebush. How could anyone pass up a plant with a name like that? Its a shrub that has tiny furry leaves and looks white.

Check out the Apache Plume. It looks great with grasses because its got those pink feathery seed heads all over it all spring till fall. Never needs watering. I also got that Giant Sacaton grass from High Country Gardens. Its the huge improved one thats supposed to have bigger blooms and denser. Its getting close to blooming and I am anxious to see the BIG PICTURE.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 4:26PM
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cactusgarden, I hope you will post pictures as I really am getting into the ornamental grasses with the weather that you and I are getting. I went to a class this spring where we built rain barrels and really learned quite a bit about the future water situation in our areas, quite an eye opener!

At this point I plan to wait until Fall to plant anything more, my son will take me to a wholesale plant company that sells grasses so I can get a good look at what is offered for this area and how it could work into my landscape.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 5:08PM
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ogrose, right now my grasses are being established and will need to wait until next season to show a more finished result. I have a no lawn native landscape and am making a "savannah" in an area and elsewhere mixing in native grasses among native forbs and cactus. I can send you some ideas though and am sending a photo of what I am doing here in case you want to broaden the natural scheme. Its so hot and dry here I just changed directions 5 years ago.

Also, fall is an excellent time to plant for us here in the SW and Santa Rosa Gardens has a half price fall sale in plenty of time for you to plant plugs (a bit bigger than plugs actually) in fall there in Dallas. I did that last year and they wintered really well and were nicely established by spring putting out good root growth deeply into the existing soil. They have some very blue Little Bluestem if you still want to do that.

Mexican Feathergrass is easy to find locally. I planted seeds in shallow holes last August to start some more and they were up and running by September. Much quicker than the ones sowed in spring if you choose to go that route. They are very easy from seed (too easy).

Here is a great book for ideas on natural landscapes using grasses you can check out from the library. The guy is a master at design:

Maybe mix in some agaves, you can grow several types in your zone.

Here is a photo of my landscape in front

The grasses are still fairly insignificant as a statement. I have 8 deergrass that will dominate much more next year and some "The Blues' little bluestem along with the Mexican Feathergrass, and blue gramma. I did plant 16 non natives for color. The Pheasant Tail's grass and the Stipa Sirocco from New Zealand. They are orangeish.

In the third photo from the bottom, you can just make out the blooms of one of the small Deergrass but they are growing pretty fast and thrive on drought. I have two M. Linheimerri's up closer to the house among cactus and am going to replace an invasive weeping Lovegrass this fall with another one. The "Savannah" is still under construction and I plan to do some editing next spring.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 6:32PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Bravo! That is one awesome landscape you have created there. The addition of grasses will take it to the next level.

Those are some great inspiration pictures too. Thanks for posting.

Yuccado is having a sale which might be a good opportunity.

Here is a link that might be useful: Yuccado Sale

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 9:32PM
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Your front yard is gorgeous, thanks for the pictures! This is the look I'm striving for, and gives me motivation to get going. I like the look of the rocks too!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 6:37PM
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Rock Oak, thanks for the Yuccado tip. I am REALLY tempted.

ogrose, with that help in landscaping your son is doing, it ought to look great. You have a more choices than us here in central OK on some of this stuff being in zone 8. That agave/grass planting mix is stunning I think. Utahensis is a pretty large one and I am planning to mix these in with grasses. The lophantha agaves work really nice with the Mexican Feathergrass too and so do the hesperaloes. Both of these will stand some shade.

I am ordering seeds for more Deergrass, thats whats in that photo with the walls. I love this grass. If you end up buying wholesale, it ought to be spectacular since you can get so many all massed in. Wish we had a place local selling them wholesale.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 8:48PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Hesperaloe in my yard flops over in light shade and tilts toward the sunny spot where it can enjoy 10-12 hours of direct sun instead of the 6-8 it's getting. It will be moved in fall. It is very, very hardy having survived low teens, multiple freezes, and even snow in the last 20 years.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 10:27PM
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cactusgarden, where do you get your seeds that you would recommend? Thanks! I'm also very tempted by the Yuccado sale, really liked the Agave Baccarat.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 10:44AM
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I got a lot of them at Plants of the Southwest. The yellow blooming flowers in the photos are Desert Marigold. Plant these and you will never have a summer without constant blooms and they glow at night. The leaves are silver and the plants are neat and form perfect bouquets with light yellow flowers by the hundreds from spring until they freeze, which can be November here. They naturalize well, need good drainage and full sun. The other reliable one is the Flameflowers. The tall red blooming one in the photo is Standing Cypress. Its a really nice one too.

I also got a lot of seeds from a woman who lives in the Hill Country I met on the GW Cactus Forum.

Native American Seed is a good source too. They seem to be affiliated with the Lady Bird Johnson Native Plants site. I've never ordered but I was looking at it last night. A guy who lives in the Texas Panhandle recommended them to me as a source for Curly Mesquite Grass.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 3:32PM
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Well, this was all going great, ordered a few plants from the Yuccado sale, and all was well - until my my husband (almost 50 years married!) informed me he thinks ornamental grasses look like weeds!!! So I just told him "trust me, you'll love it!" ha, ha, this should be interesting, especially since it's me that that does all the work in the yard and has to water when it's 10 at night and still 98 Degrees!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 11:03PM
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I passed on the Yuccado. I did go get some soil and sand and built up a mound with some rocks for a grouping of Lophantha agaves to go in a mostly grass garden. I'm mixing them in for contrast with a lot of Mexican Feathergrass, those dark green swords look really nice with the light blonde Feathergrass. The Farmers Market was giving M. feathergrass away (4" pots) because they can't keep up with nursery plants in pots watering in the dry heat outdoors. They have that sprinkler on all day long. I got them safe and snug in the ground with gravel mulch. I took out a group of "too green" panicum type grass that didn't do anything flattering for the area. This whole west side is now Sacaton, Mexican feathergrass and Little bluestem for the most part with some blue Macrocentra cactus. Once its established, I won't be having to water that!

I meet more people who just don't understand the concept. Flowers, they want flowers. And lawns. Even in this drought when we should be researching the most drought hardy natives and grasses, they are trying to fight it by wanting to fix the soil so they can keep watering it and plant more nursery plants. How anyone can prefer that same old, same old, water sucking nursery stuff and lawns is beyond me. You ought to see how bad the miscanthus grass looks around here! Pitiful. I think the only site here on Gardenweb that is not stuck in this mindset is the Texas one. Texans seem to have a grasp and appreciate their natives unlike anyone else. I found it refreshing to read the posts. So hang in there. A lot of others in Texas understand. I'm passing on any water more sucking grasses. I have culled out a few because even though they say they are somewhat drought hardy, they need water too often.

The trick to keeping it from looking like "weeds" and proving your husband right so he can say "I told you so" (a mess is more descriptive) is to plant lots of the same kinds of grasses together that form a drift and to keep the colors or textures different enough so they are distinct from each other but compliment each other. If you mix a lot of different kinds together its messy looking. Your husband may not mind when it comes time to sell the lawnmower. Mine didn't. Not one bit.

I have to say, of all the grasses I have planted, I just love the deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens). If you have the sun and run into any at that place you mentioned, they are just the most drought loving and the coolest looking grass. "Thrives on drought". Thats what I read and its true. A real nice weed.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 12:36AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

That's a great review cactusgarden. I love my Miscanthus Zebrinus, but in the fall it's moving to the backyard to be replaced by Nolina Texana or something similar and less demanding. It looked great last year with all the spring rain, but this year it's really sad looking. The Ruby Crystals Savannah grass is also moving in favor of more Mexican Feather grass so I don't have to water the inferno strip so much. Great find on that, I would love to find someone giving it away around here because it is pretty expensive.

We do welcome neighbors to the Texas forum too so feel free to jump in.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 1:28PM
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Rock, if you see any Feathergrass growing around there, ask them if you can have some seeds. They put out an amazing number of seeds. I cleaned up enough seed fluff to fill a grocery bag half full off of the ground around my plants. When you have that many seeds, you can just direct plant them in late summer or fall, several seeds spaced out in shallow holes and when the weather cools down, they will come up 100% successful. Then you will have nice starts that will bloom next spring. I have gravel and I notice the seeds drill themselves in around the rocks. I had them drilling in spaces between the tiles on my porch too. I'll be weeding Feathergrass out of it coming up next spring. They are easy to pull so it not a problem. I am planning to use that bag of seeds to do a large area in the back of my property.

If you can't find any, I can share some of mine.

So I can post and ask questions on the Texas site? That would be nice, as they are the only ones discussing the kinds of native plants I'm interested in. Oklahoma seems to talk about cottage gardens, roses and vegetables. Pigs, chickens, etc too. The native plant site is rarely posted on and when it is, its some plant I'm not interested in. 4/5's of the plants I am growing are Texas natives and I have a lot that are zone 8 that do just fine here for the last four years.

The native grasses seem to have been added to the Ornamental Grass category in the just the last few years. Used to be, you would never have found them in the nursery trade. I actually saw Weeping Lovegrass (African, not native here) for sale at Lowes and last year, they started selling the Muhly Lindheimerri.

Other than those, all you can find here are the typical nursery O. grasses like Miscanthus, Karl Forrester, Pampas and Pennisetums etc. which everyone seems to like better. I am no longer interested in doing those. I need to take out 6 Korean Feather Grass plants because they need too much water, at least every other day. I originally got them as grasses that will take some shade and now that tree is gone and I'm stuck watering them all the time and I don't even like them that much (too green). Karl Forester, is a different matter because it gets the early seed heads. I like them enough to keep them watered.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 5:16PM
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cactusgarden, we would love to have you on our Texas forum! Ya'll come down!!

Thank you so much for your patience and generosity of information and pictures, I so appreciate this - am really getting hooked on the grasses and have so much to learn...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 12:21AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Thanks for the info cactusgarden. I do have some Mexican Feather Grass and I'll take the seeds this year. I'm not getting any reseeding in the gravel section like you are, but I'll just plant them in one of my flower beds for fall. Great tip. At $7.00 for a one gallon it really adds up and I have so many other things on my list.

Sure, just pop in and introduce yourself and you'll be an honorary Texan, LOL! We did have one member from OK a while back for the same reason as I recall. We also have a regular from southeast NM and one from Missouri who answers questions on snakes. There are several native plant experts who would enjoy an interesting discussion.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 10:09AM
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greybird(z7 TX)

Cactusgarden, your photos have given me a much needed new incentive. My front yard is windswept with the north to south gusts and a hot western exposure where nothing did well. Last summer, I planted 3 desert willows that really have taken off. I now plan to create a "savannah" with the native plants. Plenty of cholla, barrel cactus, yucca and prickly pear, plus other natives I can relocate from my father-in-law's ranch.
You mentioned hot and dry, whereabouts in OK are you? I live in Vernon, 15 miles from the TX/OK border. Are you gardening in the sand or clay?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 8:46PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have not had that many problems with growing Inland Sea Oats in dry shade until this year. We will see if it comes back. I do not water AT ALL my natives, and I am accepting of them looking a bit rangy and wild. I live off of rainwater and things are grown hard as they live in nature. Nature is a burnt vista this year, I will feel lucky if anything comes back. I must say that my established Mexican feather grass is the greenest grass out there. It is growing in part shade and it NEVER volunteers here in the limestone rubble. I germinate them in 4 inch pots and plant them out. The Muhly grass will put up with shade but if there is a lot of shade the weeping is accentuated and the character changes. I have a small area where it has covered the floor under some tall cedars and it is very gentle looking and not clumpy. It grows wild on my land.

Yea Cactusgarden,The Hill country Woman concurs, yall come down and visit us sometime at our Texas forum.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 11:08AM
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