Ornamental grasses add texture to yards

Ornamental grasses add texture to yards

I recently visited the Magnolia Botanical Garden at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, and saw some wonderful ornamental grasses at the Mississippi State University site.

Ornamental grasses are great choices for landscaping and can add interesting color and texture to any garden.

I loved zebra grass, a clumping species known for its zebra-striped leaves. Its long, linear leaves grow up to 8 feet high and are flexible, allowing them to blow easily in the wind. This makes the scene come alive. The leaf blades are green with irregularly spaced yellow horizontal bars.

Zebra grass is frequently used in the landscape as a specimen or screen, but can also be planted in groups to create a nice mass of finely textured foliage. They add elegance and texture when planted in large quantities in a large space, such as around a commercial building.

Zebra grass does well in the South’s long, hot growing season. Make sure the location you choose gives it the full sun it needs. It adapts to most well-drained soils and is drought tolerant as well.

When the flowers appear in early fall, they form copper-pink columns. When the seeds mature, they become fluffy and make a great accent to the tawny winter foliage. These 8- to 10-inch tall plumes persist into the winter.

In the spring, cut the grass back to the ground so that the new green growth is not covered by last year’s dried brown foliage.

One of my all-time favorites is bay muhly. This native plant is showy in the fall and winter months. In the fall, it produces bulbous masses called inflorescences, which resemble pink clouds in the landscape.

Select a landscape location for muhly grass that receives at least six hours of full sun during the day. Keep spacing needs in mind, as these plants can grow up to 3 feet tall and wide.

Another eye-catching grass I saw at Magnolia Botanical Gardens that I want to add to my landscape is strawberry grass and cream ribbon grass. This ornamental grass has long green and white striped blades that give a delicate pink hue and provide three seasons of color.

Strawberries and Cream ribbon grass is not fussy about sun or soil conditions, making it a great choice for those hard-to-plant locations. Just be sure to keep an eye on them, as their spreading habit fills areas well but can crowd out other plants if not monitored. As a perennial, this plant usually dies back to the crown each winter and grows back from the base each spring.

Strawberries and Cream is also a good choice for planting in pots and outdoor containers. Due to its straight-line growth habit, it’s best served as a thriller in your “thriller, thriller, filler” bin collection. Plant it near the middle of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those extending along the edges. They are even large enough that you can grow them on your own in a suitable container.

Ornamental grasses can make a beautiful addition to your landscape, so keep them in mind when looking for a new plant to add interest.

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