Oh, the ornamental grasses! There is often a love and hate relationship with them. They are easy to grow, but like a bit more water than the xeric garden might tolerate. They are slow to emerge in the spring, and late to send out seed plumes in the fall. They need to be cut back to the ground in the early spring, yielding copious amounts of vegetation to compost or somehow dispose of. Yet, their green wide bladed grass leaves with their white to cream colored stripes are stunningly beautiful in the garden backdrop, or as a single specimen.
Growing in an upright vase shaped form, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ can actually tolerate moderate shade, though it seems to do best in mostly full sun. All the ornamental grasses offer color and texture to the landscape year round. Leaving the grasses uncut in the fall and winter allows some vertical structure to remain in the mostly dormant winter landscape along the Colorado Front Range. In most professionally installed Boulder Colorado landscapes, one finds the ornamental grasses used in a variety of settings. In more formal landscapes, they can act to line a pathway, a driveway, or a fenceline.
In less formal landscapes they are often planted in scattered groupings among other shrubs and perennials, and the variegated maiden grass stands out better than others because of the creamy white stripes.
After 5-10 years in the landscape, they can often be separated, as the centers of the grasses will often die out. One solution is to cut out the center deeply with a reciprocating saw (Sawzall by Milwaukee) in a circle and quarter it to remove the center dead cone. Then fill the removed cone area with compost and the grass will re-grow back into the center of the clump. Or, dig up the whole thing and quarter it and replant.
The ornamental grasses and especially the variegated ones are a must for any modern landscape, and even have a place in historical or retro landscapes. Plant a few or several in the landscape this fall and watch them come alive next spring. They will not disappoint.
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