Perennial grasses?

gottagrowAugust 2, 2008

Good morning to all of you Great Lakes gardeners! I just found this forum and hope to gain quite a bit of knowledge from "local" gardeners. I'm close to the Toledo area and would like to know what kind of perennial grasses anyone out there has that will winter over in our neck of the woods. I recently bought a samll "Sea Oats" start at a local Master Gardener sale and have Maiden Grass that I've divided a couple of times that are doing great. I bought some Fountain Grass last year from Lowe's but it didn't winter over...I didn't read the label closely at the time to catch that it wasn't hardy enough for my garden.

I forgot to add that my flower bed is wide open to the west/swest winds but I understand that grasses love that and the movement is beautiful to see.

Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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goodhors(z5 MI)

Grasses seem to do well, if they are hardy enough. The beautiful large grasses, like Pampas grass, are not hardy to my area. However there are other varieties, tall and flowing, which are very faithful and return every year.

My suggestion would be to check a good nursery, talk to the folks there about what works in your area. I am not up on all the variety names, just see different kinds as I am out driving. Lots of creative uses that set the grasses off, catch your eye in all seasons. Sure is easy-care, one haircut a year and it is done!

Do you have a plan for the grass? Tall behind, then medium down to small? Clumps in a row, tall surrounded with other colors as a focus point? I have also seen some lovely hedge looks, using mixed grasses in medium sizes and colors.

One grass that is highly recommended is Karl Forester. I have had it, seems very tough, non-running, needs little attention once settled in. However I just didn't think it stood out that much from uncut dry grass in the ditch or fields around here. It just wasn't special or different, in my farm setting. I pulled it up, gave it to a friend. I planted Zebra grass, which is doing well after being ignored since June. I like the brighter green and yellow spots. It is not really tall yet, but thick and lush in a dry setting. I think I will be much happier with it than Karl.

I have some green and white grass in another location, clumping, gets about 40" tall with taller, fluffy plumes. It seems to be very well behaved, in the 7 years I have had it. Clump is growing, but hasn't died out in the center as some old clumps do. I would get another one if I needed more grass. I have sheared it both Spring and Fall, grass comes back well either way. Plumes may need support or removal, if snow is heavy it breaks them down.

Short green and white Ribbon grass runs wildly. Planted in places with firm edges or mowed for containment, you can keep control. Ignore it and you have it everywhere. I use it along the dog pen and one edge of the house. I find it very attractive there, easy to control in those settings. Mower keeps it from spreading. I never fertilize it or water extra, does very well.

My garden is rather casual, shady, so decorative grass locations are limited to the medium and above sizes. Short grass would disappear with my tall lawn grasses. We don't mow very short, makes for better lawn with the dogs playing on it. Never needs watering.

Welcome to the group.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 11:17PM
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I'be been looking around a bit to get ideas for fall planting. I'm going to be using grasses to border the back of my flower bed. The whole back side will be in full sun but because of my cordscrew willow and some pine trees, my actual flower bed is mostly sunny with some deep shade on the south. I came across something called Porcupine grass that was hardy for my area and very striking. I'm going to have to look into the Zebra grass because that's what I would have called the Porcupine grass because of the yellowish stripes going horizontally across the leaves. I thought about Pampas grass. The neighbors down the road have a stand in front of their porch, but I think it would be too tall and would over power my flower bed.

I'm going for the casual, wild country look overall. I started planting a couple years ago since I had bare soil forced on me! Actually we had to replace our whole septic system and what used to be grass became a clean pallet to begin my creation! I've bought some plants, gotten starts from friends and my mom has been a constant supplier. She has had beautiful heirloom plants for years and even with the soil change everything is growing great!

When all is said and done, I would like to border the front of the bed facing the house with stones, not the pre-formed ones you get at stores. Every now and then when we're out driving I'll see a pile of cobble stones in a farmers field and one of these days I'm going to stop and see if maybe they'd like to get rid of or sell them. It will be an ongoing creation but it's a labor of love!

Thanks for the information, I'll keep my eyes open since I have a month or so before I will actually start planting again! Enjoy the day!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 5:55AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Porcupine grass is a little more rigid (and therefore more upright) than zebra grass. Another good one is Little Bluestem. A nice blue-green in summer and good red-gold fall/winter color.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 6:45AM
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It sounds like I should go with the Porcupine grass since the area is so open to the west/southwest wind. I'm definately going to have to check inot the Little Bluestem, hopefully it's hardy around here because I think it's beautiful!! Thanks a lot for your help, and enjoy the day!!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 7:29PM
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