Tuesday, October 17

Grass Inflorescences

I mostly grow ornamental grasses for two reasons:
1) The movement they add through the summer, fall and winter as Lake Erie winds dash through my yard
2) The upright, vertical element that they provide, helping to make my small garden "feel" larger

I have never picked any grass specifically for its "flowers," but I love the subtle beauty of grass inflorescences in the fall. Most people are familiar with the huge plumes of pampas grass, the little rabbit's-foot tufts of pennisetum, and the feathery branches of miscanthus grass. Here are two of my favorites, which are a little less common but no less beautiful: sorghastrum nutans 'Sioux Blue' and hakonechloa macra 'aureola'

I haven't had much time recently to appreciate the little things in the garden. I have been very busy at work, regularly pulling 10+ hour days--even through the weekend--and getting home well after sunset. So in addition to sharing some interesting "inflorescences" (and having an excuse to use the word, which is fun to say) I'm also posting these pictures in order to remind myself that there is fall beauty left in my yard to appreciate. I plan to make time to enjoy some of it this weekend.


David (Snappy) said...

I have seen a lot of pampas grass's grown in peoples gardens.Its about eight feet tall! i agree grasses give lots of movement in the garden and any thing to look at in the Fall is great!

Annie in Austin said...

Inflorescence, Inflorescence- yep, it's a cool word. I like the way the Sorghastrum 'Sioux Blue' looks in your photo.

We had Pampas grass at the last house and chopped it down. The leaf edges were like knives, inflicting cuts on legs and arms which took a long time to heal. It might be okay in the right location, but ours was a menace.

I definitely need to let some kind of grass back into the garden next season.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

I actually recently added my first ornamental grass to my garden, and I'm so glad I did! I can easily see adding more and more. I love the movement, and, as you said, they somehow make the garden seem bigger than it is. I love, love, love that top photo. I may have to search that one out myself :-)

Anonymous said...

I like growing ornamental grasses for the reasons you state. They radiate in the garden by the time fall moves in. The birds bend the blades of grass over as they go for the seeds, so there is plenty of opportunity to birdwatch. I'll have to add 'Sioux Blue' and 'Aureola'--yours look great! -Judith

lisa said...

I really like the "influenceces of your inflorescenses" ;) Seriously, I love grasses for many reasons, too-summer structure, fall color, winter structure/color, even nesting material for birds (if you don't clip old foliage til' spring and leave it lay around somewhere). Plus grasses are low-maintenance...probably one of the BEST bonuses! And you can go nuts with "theme areas" depending on the grass used, such as tropical garden, oriental garden, wild/native garden, etc.. Plus a lot of birds enjoy snacking on the seed heads and using the plants for cover-more benefit!

Unknown said...

Snappy, fall is my favorite season, too! :) The only place there are pampas grasses around here are in large shopping center plantings. I don't know if the size overwhelms some people or if they're just hard to find because they're marginally hardy here or what.

Annie, some of the miscanthus(es?) are like that, too. I have 'Zebrinus' or 'Strictus' and if you catch those blades the wrong way, watch out.

Judith, I'll have to keep an eye out for the birds visiting--thanks for the tip, and the compliments!

Lisa, what a great idea. Last spring I cut my grasses back but composted all of the blades... this year, I will definitely chop them up a little smaller and leave them as nesting materials.

By the way, for those of you who were curious, that 'Sioux Blue' grass was a cheap and tiny little pot from Bluestone Perennials last fall. The clump didn't grow all that big yet this year, but I did get a total of three flower stalks on it already. :)

Bob said...

I sure hope you find time to enjoy this weekend, sounds like you deserve it.

Anonymous said...


I very much appreciated your post on grasses, especially the movement. I also appreciate the beauty of grasses in the golden light of late afternoon. On my recent trip throughout the west, I loved driving back roads and seeing the prairies move as the winds came across. Stunning.



lisa said...

Word to the wise concerning pampas grass...it can grow to be quite a daunting clump. My aunt living in central northern Indiana (zone 5) had a large clump she wanted her husband to help her move. He ended up needing a backhoe to dig the enormous rootball, and a CHAINSAW to divide it! (Clump was about 3 1/2 feet across) My mom tried to divide her clump that was only 2 feet wide...she managed to bring up the rootball after LOTS of digging with an ordinary shovel, but it took an AXE to divide it. Better plant that pampas where it has lots of room, and you want it to stay!

Unknown said...

Barrie, I hope to see that myself someday... the only thing I get to see that comes close is the fields of ripe wheat in the central and western parts of Ohio when I go back to visit my family. (I keep trying to capture that rich, greyed brown color in paint for my bedroom, but haven't quite gotten it right yet.)

Lisa, no worries--I will not be planting pampas grass here anytime soon. (Backhoe and chainsaw... yikes!) If I had room for one of those, I'd have room for a dwarf fruit tree instead--and the latter would always win. *grin*

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