Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A GARDEN WITHOUT GRASSES JUST ISN'T A GARDEN

There is no lawn to mow in our gravelly garden but there are grasses. Not the sweeping vistas of grasses that are sometimes used in garden design but individual clumps scattered throughout.


One of my favorites is the ruby crystal grass, Melinus nerviglumis, with its pink puffs of seed heads It mixes well with the Mexican feather grass, Stipa tenuissima. Melinus maintains its green color throughout the season, flowering several times, whereas feathergrass takes on buff tones after producing its seeds. Despite their propensity to reseed in great numbers they are a valuable asset in the landscape.


In the past I have had little success with the burgundy fountain grass in the ground. This year I decided to grow the plant in a pot where it receives regular water. Success at last.


I can never understand why lemon grass, Cymbopogon, is so expensive to buy in the store. Although not hardy through the winter here it quickly grows from a four inch pot into an enormous plant. It did survive the mild winter last year and I found a much better spot for it to grow. Alongside the potting shed where it is welcome to the sandy gravel below. I think it makes a carefree stand.



Among the more diminutive grasses Festuca glauca, is a favorite and easily grown from seed.


I am on the lookout for more grasses for my garden. I don't mind if they reseed but they must be pretty carefree of their surroundings. Having said that no Miscanthus please. I have one in the sunken garden which I cannot get rid of. We have pulled up the paving to get to the roots but still it comes back. Let me know if you have ideas.

23 comments:

  1. Really good points on using grasses hardy to one's climate as bunches and masses - goes with where there is soil vs. there is not - eventually, there's a decent pattern that takes little input to sustain them. Am now looking for the right area to seed out the Ruby Crystal Grass from you that I was given last time in Austin.....

    Maiden Grass (or Blue Fescue)...to control it, just move it to Abq. It will never recover w/o serious care...both still sell at a dizzying rate, regardless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you are successful with the seeds. I don't have any problem. It just pops up all over the place.

      Delete
  2. After seeing the ruby crystals at your gardens, I was smitten. Found a couple small ones at HD and snapped them up. They seem happy so far. I am eagerly anticipating them blooming. Your purple fountain looks happy. Always a beautiful specimen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you will enjoy this grass and once it seeds you will have it for ever.

      Delete
  3. My favorite is blue fescue, which you have, but I also enjoy some of the carex sedges. I love blue-eyed grass, too, but lost mine in that harsh winter we had. I understand there is a new blue eyed grass that has a milk chocolate colored flower. Don't know if it is available in Austin, but Chocolate Flower Farm grows it to order online, if you're interested in checking it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only have one carex but I think I should get some more. I do have some native once growing outside and am amazed at how hardy they are. They survived last summer without any water. I do have lots of blue eyed grass but it blooms much earlier int eh spring. Such a pretty little flower. I must look out for the new variety. Thanks.

      Delete
  4. The Ruby Crystal is lovely; I think that's what I saw planted en masse at San Antonio Botanical Garden last month. Might have to try it out with my grass go-to's: Mexican feathergrass (love the bleached tangles) and gulf muhly. The best kind of grasses (in Texas) are the ones you don't have to mow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Several years ago I saw a big stand of ruby crystal grass at the SABG so I'm sure that is what you saw. I love the way it flowers more than once a year. Spring and fall.nit always seems to be flowering somewhere in the garden.

      Delete
  5. I love the grasses.
    My Ruby Chrystal grass is still not blooming, but it looks healthy.
    The Mexican Feathergrass is so reliable. I'm putting it all over the place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure your grass will bloom in the fall. It seems to bloom better in sunny locations but also with produce a few seed heads in no sun.

      Delete
  6. Jenny, just so beautiful. I didn't realize that fescue would make it all summer. I must have!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have had that plant for a few years and one plant I have in the gravel must be 4 years old. Tough little plant.

      Delete
  7. How about the "Little Bunny" dwarf fountain grass. I think it is so cute! I lost mine a couple of years ago after the horrible ice and snow we had here (in the Dallas area) and cannot find another one. They are a perfect size for my small garden.
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have seen the packets of bunny ears. I need to try that because it does have pretty seed heads. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Delete
  8. If you really don't mind reseeders, then 'Moudry' fountain grass could be for you. Prairie dropseed too (it doesn't reseed very much) but has wonderfully-scented inflorescence. Smells like cilantro to me, but popcorn to others.

    Strange that you can't get rid of the Miscanthus. I was able to remove one (to be replaced by another, better cultivar). The rootball sticks together pretty well, so you should be able to pry it all up in one chunk (get a $30 steel "breaker bar" for that).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for those two suggestions Alan. I must check out the Moudry and I think the P dropseed is a pretty little plant but have never seen it for sale here. I have several native grasses that do well but they are in the wild areas. Unfortunately the miscanthus is now growing under and between the rocks and we can't get at the roots. I shall have to use round up because it is always going to be a problem otherwise.

      Delete
  9. I totally agree...I couldn't have a garden without grasses! I love the Melinus nerviglumis...so lovely. For a tough and beautiful grass, I'd recommend Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem). They are tough little prairie grasses that are lovely in spring and summer...and dramatically gorgeous in the fall, lasting well into winter. 'Blaze' and 'The Blues' are garden stalwarts...and I'm trying a new variety ('Blue Heaven') this year...which is supposed to be quite a bit taller (around 4' rather than the more typical 2-3') and very upright.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I must look for the little bluestem. I am so afraid of the bluestems because I have King ranch growing all over my lot. The good thing was that last summer the heat really did a number on it but it reseeds heavily so I am sure it will be back. I have trouble telling the difference between the two except I know that mine is invasive. It has crowded out all the native grasses.

      Delete
  10. I like your Ruby Crystal grass... I might have to look into some of that. Your entire garden is so interesting!

    For another grass to add, I'd suggest Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass). I think it's a Texas native (Maybe - I know it's native to the eastern US, but I'm not sure how far west) and fairly dought tolerant. It does need full sun to bloom, but it doesn't reseed in my garden, and it makes pretty pink plumes in later summer/fall/into winter. They are big though, 3ft tall, up to 6ft tall and wide in bloom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pink muhly does grow well here. We have large stands of it along the main road and as you say such a pretty seed head in the fall. I think I will try to find a spot for it next year. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Delete
  11. I added a Ruby Crystal grass this year as well. I loved seeing it in your garden. Mine isn't blooming yet. How big do the plants have to get before they send out those lovely pink puffs?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post! I just love grasses mixed with Agaves and wildflowers and yours all look wonderful. There are so many hundreds of grasses to research and find it's hard to say what to try next. Do you have Gulf coast muhly? The flower spikes are pink and stunning and last all winter. Do a Google search and see what you think. It's carefree and native to the Houston area. I think it would do okay in Austin if you have an area with some deeper soil. I don't know how it does in gravel since we have clay loam here. I also love the zebra grasses but they are quite exotic and a bit hard to match up with other plants.
    David/:0)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I see everyone has already suggested Gulf muhly, and you have it by the road. I would add little bluestem after seeing it in Plano Prairie Garden in the fall -- gorgeous! I'm trying 'Blonde Ambition' grama, which I found at the Great Outdoors last year. It's doing well, and it isn't overlarge, which is nice. They aren't really grasses, but I'm growing Texas sedge and love it, and I definitely want to have a large swath of Berkeley sedge in the front garden eventually.

    ReplyDelete