ELEGANT AUTUMN GRASSES

Perennials and annuals are at their colorful peak
By: 

Rob Zimmer, Leader Columnist


Photo by Rob Zimmer Late summer and fall are peak season for colorful and vibrant ornamental grasses.

Photo by Rob Zimmer Elegant purple fountain grass is an excellent choice for containers, garden beds and borders for its spectacular fall display.

Late summer and early autumn are prime time for ornamental grasses to shine. As September arrives, the ornamental grasses begin to put on their spectacular fall show. Many are now just forming their elegant, feathery seed plumes, as well as blushing with the colors of the new season.

Perennial ornamental grasses, native grasses, as well as annual ornamental selections are at their peak at summer’s end, transforming into all their rich, graceful glory during September.

In reds, purple, blue, orange and gold, ornamental grasses provide not only a colorful and beautiful addition to the garden bed and border, but grace, texture and vertical interest, as well.

Many annual ornamental grasses, those that do not over winter in our area, are heavily used as showy accent plants and specimen centerpiece showstoppers in fall garden displays.

Purple fountain grass is probably best known, with its fireworks display of beautiful, deep purple foliage and tall, furry seed heads that grace the autumn garden.

Fireworks fountain grass is even more beautiful in shades of pink and rich red.

Vertigo is a powerhouse annual grass in rich, chocolatey brown featuring an elegant, cascading growth form perfect for placing in containers or as a garden centerpiece.

The ornamental millets, in deep, dark purple or green are another excellent choice for fall gardening. The millets provide an unusual display of huge, foxtail plumes that pair perfectly with fall mums, asters, pumpkins and other traditional fall favorites.

Black mondo grass is a wonderful, dark foliaged ornamental grass in deep purple to near black. Its small size and black color make it an excellent choice for fall and Halloween containers featuring mums, pansies, violas and other fall beauties.

Perennial ornamental grasses that have been reaching for the skies throughout the summer season now put on their fall display during September.

Maiden grasses, along with switch grasses, bluestems, reed grasses and others are at their peak as they begin to display their massive, elegant and feathery seed plumes to the autumn wind.

Perennial ornamental grasses come in a wide range of colors and growth forms. Some are vertical, upright towers of beauty, while others are vase shaped or cascading in form.

There are ornamental perennial grasses in shades of blue, gold, green, red, purple, as well as variegated grasses in green and white or yellow.

All put on their peak display during late summer and early fall.

Some of my favorite ornamental grasses are in the switchgrass family. Selections such as Prairie Sky, Cheyenne Sky, Shenandoah, Heavy Metal and others display beautiful, vibrant colors along with their light, airy seed plumes.

The many varieties of maiden grass are also excellent for the fall season. These grasses, often called pampas grass, offer the beauty of massive, dancing plumes in silvery white that last throughout the winter season, making them an excellent choice for four season landscapes.

Maiden grasses come in a variety of colors and sizes. Many are massive specimen plants that may reach 5 to 7 feet in height, though there are several dwarf selections available as well.

The feather reed grasses are another popular choice in perennial ornamental grasses. Korean feather reed grass, Karl Foerster, Overdam, Avalanche and others are quite popular. All feature tall, feathery seed heads during late summer and fall.

For gardeners with smaller spaces to work with, there are many excellent choices in dwarf or miniature perennial ornamental grasses. The wonderful blue fescues all feature perfect mounds of sky blue with tiny tufts of creamy white seed heads. Little bluestem comes in a number of varieties, as well as the native form. This colorful, native grass grows to about 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide, making it a wonderful, compact addition to the garden. Dwarf zebra grass features colorful foliage in green and gold in a beautiful, compact clump.

Fall is an excellent time to purchase and plant perennial grasses in the garden, as well as adding colorful, seasonal annual grasses for a breathtaking seasonal display.

Find Rob Zimmer online at www.robzimmeroutdoors.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RobZimmerOutdoors. Listen to Outdoors with Rob Zimmer from 4-5 p.m. Friday and 7-8 a.m. Saturday on WHBY.