Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Grass Is Always Greener

Ornamental grass is a huge category of decorative garden plants.  There are annuals and perennials, short and tall, invasive and well-mannered, native and exotic. 

(Left:   Sedum "Crazy Ruffles")

They may be used for a big landscape statement or in pots.  Most garden pots only contain flowers or at the very least just one vertical accent of foliage.  While recently visiting area nurseries, we saw many pots planted with all or mostly foliage.
One such example was a large formal gray pot with silver/white foliage.  Consider the many green leaves showing stripes in light colors, blue tints, or a silvery fur.  Add a little accent with white flowers and this planter will show up beautifully against dark colors and at night.
Salvia argentea
Rock gardens (both in the ground and in pots) are perfect for the all-foliage statement.  Succulents come in all sizes and shapes and can withstand some neglect.

Pots may be planted with annuals or perennials.  If you take your pots indoors for the winter, many plants can be used for years.  They may take a little pruning, sometimes replacing with new potting soil, and regular fertilizing.
(Right:  Salvia - Silver Sage pictured/available at "Annie's Annuals and Perennials" )

Here are a few different plants that make great foliage arrangements:
  • “Graceful Grasses King Tut”, an Egyptian Papyrus, is a quirky tall (4-6 ft) annual.  The ends of the stems look like green fireworks. 
  • “Japanese Blood Grass”, Imperata Cylindrical Red Baron, is a (12-18 in) perennial.  The long upright blades are bright red tipped.  (Pictured above)
  • “Japanese Forest Grass”, Hakonechloa macra Aureola, is a 2 ft perennial weeping yellow and green striped grass that can stand the most shade of any ornamental grass.
  • “Cordyline Red Sensation” australis, this annual has 18-20 in. leathery strap shaped bronze-red leaves.
  • “Amazon Sunset Parrot’s Beak”, a spreading annual Lotus vine has silver foliage and bright orange beak like flowers.
  • “Live Wire” Isolepis grass has soft cascading mounds of finely textured foliage with little tuffs on the ends as flowers.  This 8 in. annual likes sun. 
  • “Cuban Gold” Duranta erecta is a 24 in bright yellow sun lover.  Used in the tropics as a shrub, this annual is a bright spot where ever it’s planted. 
  • Any of the Dusty Millers, Artemsias, hostas, ferns, lavenders, Lamb’s Ear (pictured below),  and sedums. 
  • A great annual. “Marguerite Sweet Potato Vine”, Ipomoea.  This bright chartreuse plant may vine ten foot if nourished well.  Other colors of this vine are dark burgundy, a two-tone green, and a blue-green.  Consider planting among your perennials for an informal ground cover.
Next time you’re planting your garden pots, consider trying a mostly foliage rendition.  Every nursery or garden center will have its own specialties.  Make a white/silver arrangement, a red/burgundy, a blue/green, a yellow/chartreuse, or an emerald green. 

Seriously, the grass can be greener on your side of the fence.

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