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Tired Of The Bland Winter Garden? Ornamental Grasses Can Fix That

Linda Owen/Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that time of year when the garden lays dormant and we fondly recall last summer’s lush and active plants. It may be the middle of winter in Colorado, but ornamental grasses provide color and texture to an otherwise bland landscape. 

The diverse array of ornamental grasses cover a range of colors, sizes and textures. Some are most active in the fall or spring, but most brighten up a frozen garden even during those dreary winter months.  

Bigger grasses, like Zebra grass, stand out by themselves. Fountain and feather reed grasses can be used in mass to create drifts. Smaller grasses like fescue are used to accent borders.

Korean Feather Reed Grass is a Plant Select plant from 2009. It grows upright in the full sun but arches in partial shade. It has a pink tinge to its summer plumes.  All of the Feather Reed Grasses are cool season grasses. They start to grow in early spring and are showy through the rest of the year. 

Little Bluestem is a native grass that doesn’t require much water. It grows a foot or so tall and wakes up in May. Little Bluestem has a russet red fall and winter color. It can become weedy because it re-seeds itself.

Cut back on these grasses in late winter to keep them healthy. A power hedge shear makes the process easier for these hardy species. Try to run the shear straight through instead of cutting back and forth which creates a lot of extra clean-up work.  

Most grasses should be cut four to six inches above the soil but smaller grasses like blue fescue can be cut even lower. Cool season grasses like blue avena should be cut back as early as possible. Depending on the weather, warm season grasses like hardy pampas grass won’t show new green blades until late spring.

Grasses may die-out in the middle of the clump by the third or fourth season. Rejuvenate them in the spring by digging the clump and dividing it into three or four smaller clumps.  This will guarantee healthy ornamental grasses throughout all of the seasons.

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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