The 15 most unusual ornamental grasses
When it comes to ornamental garden plants, cereals are extremely rare. Meanwhile, they deserve a prominent place in plant composition and can argue with the beauty of any other garden inhabitant.
Recently, however, ornamental crops have gained popularity: there are more than 200 different species which can be used in single plantings or planted with other plants. Rockeries and alpine rockeries are decorated with cereals, they are left by the pond, they frame the edges of beds and garden paths.
Ornamental crops in the garden
I suggest getting acquainted with ornamental grasses, perhaps their spectacular fluffy panicles will inspire you to create new compositions in the garden and flower beds.
Blue fescue (Festuca glauca)
Perennial herb with grayish, fluffy, hemispherical bumps up to 40 cm tall. Very nice to look at the background of rocks and ponds, but at the same time it is quite an independent plant which doesn’t get bored in solitary plantings.
Overwinter quietly without shelter. Grows very strongly and quickly so fescue should be divided every 2 years to renew the plant. Seeded propagation possible: Sow in spring or under the winter. Place 3 seeds in a hole about 20 cm apart.
Pogonatherum Paniceum Pogonaterum
This one may surprise many because it is thought to be a native plant, it is often even called “room bamboo” or “room reed”. It’s actually a cereal, it’s a member of the rebel family and is used for planting in tubs and other large containers. In summer, pots of chanterelle can decorate the face of the garden, the outdoor patio. In southern regions, it can overwinter in the open ground.
Ponnaterum in the open ground
As a plant in the open ground, perennial lapwort is successfully cultivated in the south of Russia.
One of the varieties of Setaria is the well-known chumisa, which in some regions is grown as a stricture plant. However, many gardeners appreciate it precisely for its ornamental value: chumisa has large yellowish or green beating panicles, which look good in an ensemble with other plants and solo. The second variety of Setaria is known in our country as Mogar or BRISTER. Its panicles are smaller, only growing.
Setaria bushes are tall, sometimes even higher than 1 m. This ornamental crop likes heat, sun and fertile soil. It is drought-resistant, but with regular watering it becomes more decorative. The plant has won the love of fans of dry bouquets, as dried panicles perfectly hold their shape (do not crumble). And when cut in a composition with other plants you will look no less original.
Barley mane (Hordeum jubatum)
It is said about it that it was great and playful. In my opinion, in the world it is not only muesli, but in general ornamental plants.
This is a perennial, but it is more often grown as an annual crop because its properties can freeze in the winter. Grievous – barley forms dense bushes up to 50 cm in height with spreading shoots, the inflorescences of which have very long stigmas.
During flowering, mane green or pink-purple unicorns.
At the time of flowering, Oe have a pearl green or pink-purple color, and when they wither, they are recognizable. With proper care, the Barberry rue will not only not freeze, but also give a beautiful self-sowing. To learn more about this amazing plant, see the article Grievous Barberry.
Known as pampas grass, forms a spectacular, sprawling bush that is topped with a cap of fuzzy inflorescences. The large (growing up to 3 m in favorable conditions) species is breathtakingly beautiful, but the stunted varieties are just as good.
Cortradia (pampas grass)
The main condition for a great flower is plenty of sun. Pampas grass on the coast of Crimea (elegant pampas grass) looks very unusual. But what prevents us from inviting you into our garden?
Bristleich’s peristocetinum (Pennisetum setaceum)
Airy unity and a festive look can give a flower bed: bright eye-catching inflorescences on long stems look like fireworks.
In addition to needle plants (spruces, juniper, cypress) it looks very spectacular.
American peristocetinum (Pennisetum glaucum)
Another beauty in the peristocetinaceous family. Ornamental species are decorated with dense panicles (from red to black, depending on the variety) and brown-purple or blue leaves.
African millet is thermophilic but tolerant of lower temperatures. Can be used in mixed borders as well as in individual plantings. I like this species in muesli in medium form, and the dried plant retains its shape and color beautifully.
Peristocetinum americana in front of a pond
Notes on personal experiences with growing mature peristocetinum and ornamental millet.
Harmoster cirrus (Pennisetum villosum)
This species is quite different from its American counterpart, but no less beautiful. This perennial grows strongly and quickly, so it is worth limiting its size a little.
The height of the plant can vary from 30 to 60 cm. The leaves are thin and flat, sturdy panicles (up to 10 cm). The golden spikelets are surrounded by cirrus-like bristles, so they appear shaggy.
The golden spikelets are surrounded by
You can see more photos of Purple Peristocetinum in Ludmila Uleiskaya’s commentary.
Forms lush tall bushes up to 2 m high.
Long leaves, playful golden, golden-pink or silvery panicles.
This sweet muesli fully lives up to its name: its small, fluffy inflorescences resemble the tail of rabbits. It can reach just over 50 cm in height, the spike-like inflorescences themselves are about 3-4 cm long.
Loved by many gardeners not only for its elegance, but also for its high decorative value in dry compositions. It can grow in partial shade, making it planted in places where other ornamental grasses cannot grow.
A very original annual herb with inflorescences in the form of unusually large dark brown loose spike with round grains. The leaves are broad, dark green, and their size also gives the plant an unusual appearance.
Used both in group plantings and singly as a background for other plants. Suitable for spectacular winter compositions. Sorghum tolerates cold and is undemanding in the soil.
You will find seeds of various ornamental grasses in our market and you will definitely find a suitable plant for yourself.
Types of cereals and care for them
The author of this material, Tatiana Shikerian, began “playing” with grains in 2005 after reading books, watching grains in English and French gardens and being impressed by the expert on grains Tatiana Zheltovskaya. Even today, he is convinced that grains are an indispensable attribute of a small maintenance type …
Cereals – the main actor in the garden
I’ll start with the grains that deserve the main roles. For me, the number one star is the strong, powerful, architectural reed blitz (Molinia a Rundinacea), which raises spikes from August to September to a height of 2 to 2.5 meters. It is a bushy cereal with leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Despite its impressive size, it can be placed in the foreground, in the garden it is perfectly visible from the transparent veil. The plant looks especially spectacular under the rays of the setting sun, as well as in the morning in ragged or dewdrops.
No worse is the more elegant bluegill (Molinia caerulea) with narrow (3 to 10 mm) flat leaves and up to 1.5 m tall. Its decorative highlight comes in late summer and fall, when extensive purple shields appear. The original appearance of this cereal is sure to attract attention. Green-leaved varieties vary in bush spread and height, each one is wonderfully pretty and elegant.
The odd mottled variety Lightning Blue (M. Caerulea var. Variegata) is only 40-50 cm tall with yellowish-cream-colored longitudinal stripes on the leaves, it is not a soloist, but quite a reliable member of the “garden choir”.
The flaring lines are set in motion by the quietest breath of the wind, weighing with surprising ease and grace, they mesmerize us and show the strength of their stems. Plants reach their maximum ornamental value in three to four years. Molinia are cold tolerant and unpretentious, they are heat-loving plants. Here I would like to make an excursion and tell you that grains are cold- and heat-loving. The first suffer in early spring, they mature quickly and slow their growth with the onset of heat, their second period of activity is in the fall. The end of warmth begins late, when the floor is thoroughly warm. Knowing how a particular herb grows helps you use it correctly in the garden and work with it intelligently.
Perennial phlaches grow slowly at first, but after three or four years they make a striking plant whose only concern is watering in dry weather. They love moisture, even occasional moisture, from acidic to alkaline, and are comfortable in sun and partial shade. There are good varieties, I have tried ‘Fontane’, ‘Karl Foerster’, ‘transparent’, which differ only in the color of the spikes.
Lightning is ideal for decorating a coastal area. They are accent plants, so give them enough space, if you plant them in a mixed bed, surround them with low neighbors that do not interfere with the form of the bush. Phloxes look original in a rose garden. Bring them into the garden – you won’t regret it!
Many consider the strong and warm chinensis (Miscanthus sinensis) with its short rhizomes and upright two-meter stems the best garden lapwort. Breathtaking contrast on top with limitless inflorescences with arched leaves tending downward like a ray of waterfall. The purples open in September and turn crimson-purple or silvery and fan-shaped. The beauty is incredible! The quiet noise of the leaves, even in calm weather, is soothing. And how beautifully its leaves rustle in the wind!
Among more than a hundred Chinese varieties, bowls do well in the suburbs, but require mulching and protection from dryness for the winter. Also try to choose hardy and vulnerable varieties. Beginners find this bowl difficult to manage, but once they adjust to their demands, they will be rewarded. No species can rival the beauty and variety of varieties that bloom from August through October. They vary in shape and size of bush, color of inflorescences from white and pink to Burgundy. Their leaves vary in shape, size and color. They are curved, green, yellowish, pink or brownish with longitudinal or transverse bands of white, cream or yellow. The sultanas turn silvery white when fading. The typical fall leaf color is yellow, but there are varieties that take on red tones and browns.
To get the miscanthus to put down roots, plant it in a sunny, protected from cold winds in fertile, moist soil. It will like the proximity to a large rock on the bank of a body of water, where the air is always moist. Miscanthus is poorly tolerant of drought, it must be watered regularly. With good care, they grow quickly and powerfully, allowing them to winter better. It is worth buying mature plants, they are more stable. Covering for the winter with sphagnum moss or planks gives good results. When sprouts appear (mid-May), rakitnik is fed several times with organic fertilizers with liquid nitrogen, for the season with which you can gain a decent mass in the short summer. In the Moscow suburbs, after division, the shells take a long time to recover.
I have long been growing giant hybrid miscanthus (M ISCANTHUS X G IGANTEUS). It is a powerful upright plant up to 3 m tall with weeping dark green leaves 2.5 cm wide with a white stripe in the middle. It forms a slightly spreading lawn and blooms late in the short or cold summer. The rose is paniculate when flowering, then silvery. Looks good in a pond, suitable as a screen or accent in the background. Does not need protection.
Miscantus Suga r-Whühend (M. Sacchariflo Ru) I showed for uncontrolled exclusion. Strong, sturdy roots spread with frantic speed and jump the border when it is low or if you find a hole in it. Such “arrogant” specimens are not needed in my small garden with an abundance of plants.
A perfect example of structural muesli, one of the most interesting for the average strip of Russia, is the abandonment of ostrolista (with alamagrostis acutiflora). Already in June it causes upward, high anthropogenic growth. It blooms earlier than other muesli, with numerous narrow and long (up to 20 cm) panicles in July; it quickly turns brown and retains this coloring in winter.
The loosestrife is a cold-growing plant. It grows very fast in the sun and in partial shade, it is undemanding and drought-resistant. Unlike many other muesli, it does well on heavy-colored floors. The a-Ulen variety has no underground shoots and is not aggressive.
Two luxurious varieties that grace any garden are well known.
‘Karl Foester’-Great in the world of ornamental grasses with elegantly curved, shiny, dark green leaves and strictly upright two-meter discs. When planted in the shade, the lush shields shorten slightly. The resolution is pink at the beginning, shrinking and turning brown with time, and then becoming wheat-colored.
“Overdam” is, in my opinion, even better than “Karl Foester”. It is lower (150-160 cm) and less long-lived, forms a slow spreading rump. The leaves with longitudinal stripes are good, from a distance it even appears to be cream. After flowering, the pink inflorescences turn into compressed brown panicles. The plant germinates early and grows quickly in both sun and partial shade. Weeks in the garden are pronounced vertical, exclamation marks, it’s a good idea to place them in the right places.
Some gardeners mess with prairie because they feel they can’t choose for shade the right one. Absolutely not! There are such candidates.
For example, segezha muskingum (Carex muskingumensee) or palm. Pileas resemble cereals, but their stems are triangular. Numerous narrow leaves of this perennial are in bunches (“palms”) at the ends of weak stems at a height of 60-80 cm. The green bump is lightly flaked. Blossoms strongly in June-July. The greenery lasts until mid-winter. It has to be cut off in early spring, as it grows in the cold. It grows well in shade, on wet floors and in the sun. It can be used as a floor covering.
In gardens, it is better to plant not the species, but the varnished cottonwood, which has stronger stems. Low-growing ‘Silver Stripe’ (syn. ‘Variegata’) with a slight white stripe along the edge of the green leaf.
My favorite is the beautiful Deskampsia (Deskampsia with Espitosa). Its Russian names are rustic – pike, meadow, but the Latin ones did not disappoint. These are perennial bumps of thin, long, dark green, visor leaves, such charming “skirts” 1-1.5 m in diameter and up to 40 cm in height. In June-July, shoots up to 120 cm tall with graceful explosive shoots grow above them. Minutes and small shiny green, yellowish or light purple stubs as they weary. They look like a clear, wavering cloud over a green rump. A pike can be planted in the foreground and is especially fascinating to look at through the garden across the garden.
All pike plants are unpretentious and long-lived, grow well on the floor and prefer moist places, in partial shade and in full sun. They grow well in semi-shade, but hardly ever flower.
Pikes require little or no care, only need to be trimmed in early spring or very late fall. If the pike is forgotten while the young leaves are growing, you need to gray out – not a very decent bump until the young leaves grow back.
Pike has many varieties that vary in stem height, leaf shade and length. Some of them grow in my garden:
“Bronze shells”-: 7 m tall and 75 cm wide. The eyebrows change color from green to bronze-brown.
“Goldtau” – shorter and smaller, 1 x 0.5 m, grows slowly. Distinguished by the spectacular dark red leaves.
“Gold veil” rolls 1,75 x 0,5 m, the color of the spiles is golden yellow.
In my opinion, pike varieties differ only in nuance. So if you do not position yourself as a collector, you can limit yourself to it.
The largest specimen of pike grows in my garden on a retaining wall right in front of my bedroom windows. It’s the first plant I see when I look out the window in the morning, and it never disappoints. The most victorious spots for pike are at the bend in the path, in the corner of the mish-boarder, like a tapeworm on the lawn. It is magnificent in large numbers, forming huge clouds of fluffy eggs that change color depending on the time of year. In the mixboard it combines well with astilbes, Rogersias, bouzulines, and lilies. It tolerates very acidic soil, so it is suitable for heather. It is irresistible in late summer and fall, in cloudy weather with dew or frost.
Another species in this genus is the curved pike (D. flexuosa) with the interesting variety ‘Aurea’ (syn. ‘Tatra Gold’). The height of this tiny shade-loving, almost colorless plant is only 10-15 cm. The leaves are light yellow-green. Allows it to grow in acidic fertile soils in partial shade. Here is such a fun baby for lovers of rarity.
There are grasses that are suitable for creating striking accents of color. An example is evergreen fescue (Helictotrichon sempervirens), which is extraordinarily elegant because of its beautiful blue evergreen foliage. It is 30-50 cm tall and grows up to a meter in diameter in suitable soil. Leaf is narrow, linear, hard, almost white Inflorescences in narrow panicles on a straight pedicel of 1.5 m. Blossoms in July. The commercially available varieties, in my opinion, are almost indistinguishable from each other and from the species plant.
Oats should only be grown in a sunny, warm place. It is a perennial with a deeply sprouted upper root system that requires dry, loose poor soil; in shade and rich soil it turns green. It does not tolerate damp and heavy soil! In hot and humid conditions, oats flower poorly and rust can appear on the leaves, so if it is not provided with suitable conditions, it is better not to start at all. It is recommended to rejuvenate the bush every 4 years, only young plants are effective. It grows well in dry places, likes stones and gravel, creates a luxurious blue accent in any floral composition.
If you need a bright yellow patch in the garden, buy the variegated form of ‘aurovariegatus’ (syn. Auromarginatus, aureus) lumovia (A lopecurus pratensis). Its height is 30 cm. The leaves are golden with green stripes, erect, and curl slightly by fall. The linden grosbeak is non-aggressive and resistant. Each stem ends in a dense cylindrical inflorescence (fox-tail!) up to 10 cm long – a green silky spike, which then turns brown. By the time it blooms, it reaches almost a meter in height. The spikelets appear in late spring and early summer, they are expressive for a month and a half, and then it is better to cut them off. In the sun, the variety has a light yellow color, in the shade it becomes green. It needs well-drained soil, rich in humus, with moderate watering in dry weather, and then it will actively grow. It is recommended to cut back the wilted inflorescences to cause a new wave of leaf growth in the fall. Water chanterelle is excellent for mixborders, rockeries to create bright spots near the lawn or shrubs, it is also appropriate in water on flooded banks.
Have all the crops in my garden taken root? I have already said that I gave up sugar miscanthus, removed the aggressive, though very ornamental, light blue elimus, mottled phalaris and elegant spartina. By chance, I managed to limit the incredibly aggressive Mannik big (G lyceria maxima). His variety ‘Variegata’, 50-60 cm tall with cream longitudinal stripes on the leaves, is planted in a narrow gap between the retaining wall and the lining of the pond and still needs care. Keep in mind that once you neglect a plant, it will be difficult to completely eradicate it later. A piece of root just thrown into a natural body of water will grow into a huge, lushly flowering clump. Plant in an artificial pond only in a container. I think Manna would look great in a pot near a pond or on a patio, you should try it.
If there is a garden with minimal care, grains are its indispensable participants. These plants don’t require much care other than fall or spring pruning of old shoots, watering and feeding. Planted in the right place, they grow for many years without replanting and dividing, becoming more and more beautiful.
Grains will not bore you, at different stages of development they reveal new facets of their charm. Let them into your garden!
Tatiana Shikanyan, photos by the author and Sergey Karepanov.
Other articles by Tatyana Shikanyan on the “Gardener’s Herald” website: