ornemental grasses in fall

miscanthus sinensis Zebra

2015 might very well be the year of the grasses at our house. I can be a bit slow witted when it comes to radical shifts in gardening. In fact when I told my father (a French park ranger and tree expert) that I was including grasses in the new beds he reacted with incredulity, telling me that grasses would completely change the look of our garden. This has not come to pass yet but as time goes by I am purchasing more and more exemplars of grasses so surely that radical shift should be imminent!

In the back yard I experienced the most success with Miscanthus sinensis Yakushima. Strangely, as it was purchased from the local Home Depot on Highland drive . The plant grew very fast and now tops 4 feet but did not produce any plumes this fall.

The miscanthus sinensis zebra as well as morning light did well (they were purchased from Millcreek gardens Nursery) but did not grow much beyond their original size. I have relocated both of them in the fall, closer to the front of the border where we might enjoy them when they are backlit. Hopefully they have found their “forever home” and can rest in peace… until they need dividing.

miscanthus sinensis Morning Light

For the new foundation plantings in the front of the house (southern exposure, newly removed grass) I chose to include both blue and red grasses. That means a lot of small tuffs of fescue but also Blue Oat grass.  Blue Oat grass is the new black, it looks good next to about anything including iceberg roses, Japanese maple and small boulders.

Blue Oat grass and sedum purchased from the fall sale at Red Butte Garden.

To bridge other perennials, sedums and cacti with the existing Japanese Maple, I added a drift of (three) Shenandoah switch grass I was fortunate enough to source this late in the season from Quality Flowers on 33rd south. If you are unfamiliar with Quality, it is a wholesaler open to the public that specializes in things that don’t excite me: petunias, poinsettias etcetera… BUT also has a small amount of great perennials and grasses to choose from. Japanese Anemones (Honorine Jobert and September Charm) in the spring for example, and right now heucheras and grasses (Shenandoah, Japanese forest grass, a zebra like miscanthus and some Mondo grass).

switch grass shenandoah with Japanese maple and blue spruce.

According to Fallscaping, Japanese Forest grass is supposed to turn a pinkish red as well in the fall. My exemplars (obtained from the Red Butte Garden spring sale and more modestly from Lowes) have been moved late in the season to form a drift under a globe willow. Only a blade shows the reddish tones but I am crossing my fingers for more.

Japanese forest grass Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'
Japanese forest grass Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

With this I end the round up of great fall colors provided by grasses. Although many more species share the ground, these four take the show at the moment.


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