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Posts Tagged ‘Chasmanthium latifolium’

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During much of the summer, grasses form a backdrop for dazzling flowering plants, but come autumn, it’s their turn to shine. This is a Shenandoah Switchgrass or Panicgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’), a hybrid of a native grass. The seedhead stalks form an airy cloud of fine tracery. When the stems are beaded with morning dew and lit by the sun, panicum is as beautiful as any garden plant.

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Here’s a taller switchgrass, Panicum virgatum ‘Thundercloud’, which reaches about six feet.

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Another native hybrid is Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Prairie Blues’, or Little Bluestem. It forms a low-growing clump about 2 to 3 feet tall.

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The non-native miscanthus varieties, sometimes called Maiden Grass, are among the showiest grasses in the garden with their eye-catching plumes. This is miscanthus sinensis.

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The tallest perennial in the garden is Miscanthus giganteus. It towers over the garden at 10 to 12 feet tall. According to Wikipedia, it is a hybrid of Miscanthus sinensis and Miscanthus sacchariflorus and is currently used in the European Union as a commercial energy crop, as a source of heat and electricity, or converted into biofuel products such as ethanol, being more efficient than corn grown for that purpose.

I am content just to enjoy mine as a garden spectacle. Its tall stalks typically stay upright all winter until I cut them down in the spring.

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I’m especially fond of the pennisetums, or fountain grasses. This is Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Moudry’, or Black-flowering Fountain Grass. It was at its best back in September, when I took this photo. As their name implies, the fountain grasses form a gracefully arching clump.

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Finally, here are the distinctive seedheads of sea oats displayed on Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’, a variegated version of this North American native. River Mist was new to the garden this summer, but I’ve grown the green-leafed variety for some time. This grass is quite tolerant of shade and can make an interesting addition to a gloomy corner.

The plants shown here are all hardy perennials. There are also some very attractive grasses grown as annuals, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Whether your garden is big or small, grasses can be worthy additions.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the ornamental grasses in my garden this fall. So much so that when I came across a selection of grasses that had been marked down for ‘end-of-season’ sale, I took advantage of the great prices and picked up another six varieties. Because the gardening season is nearly finished here, I just tucked them into an open space near the house. It should be a nice, protected spot for them to overwinter and then next spring I will relocate them to a permanent home.

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Miscanthus gigantus

Grasses don’t look like much when they’re just potted-up youngsters, a few wispy blades. You’d never guess that the Giant Maiden Grass (Miscanthus gigantus), above, has the potential to grow into a big, sturdy clump standing up to 12 feet tall!

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Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'

Here is another miscanthus, Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’), which has interesting striped foliage. It gets to be 5 or 6 feet tall and makes an interesting accent.

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Pennisetum Alopecuroides 'Moudry'

I also purchased three fountain grass varieties. These are more compact plants than the two miscanthus varieties above. Black-flowering Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Moudry’) forms a compact clump 2 to 3 feet tall and produces interesting dark seedheads. The latin name, pennisetum, translates as “feather bristle”, referring to the bristly structures surrounding the flowers on the inflorescence.

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Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Redhead'

The bristles referred to in the name show up well in the above photograph of Redhead Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Redhead’).

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Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Piglet'

The third fountain grass I picked up is Piglet (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Piglet‘). It forms a neat little clump that grows to about 18 inches tall. What’s not to love about a grass called Piglet?

The grasses I currently have in my garden are native to North America, while these new additions are imports. I did get one more native grass to add to my collection, however, Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). Its seedheads are very different from the plumes of miscanthus or stems of pennisetum. The geometrical-shaped seed pods hang on gracefully arching stems. I look forward to seeing all the grasses next spring. Sleep tight!

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Chasmanthium latifolium

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