GBFD October 2013: Grasses In Their Autumn Glory

So a few days ago the weather turned genuinely cold. I hope that means we will soon see some fall color. However, these pictures were taken just prior to the shift. At that point there wasn’t much foliage of interest in our garden except for the grasses.


Northwind Switchgrass
‘Northwind’ Switchgrass
Northwind Switchgrass
Switchgrass ‘flowers’ and Monarda seed head.

The most impressive grass at the moment is the ‘Northwind’ Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). The two oldest clumps have gotten quite substantial, about 6′ tall and 3-4′ wide. Actually, I’m a little worried they are going to start shading out the Salvias. Regardless, they are a lovely sight at the moment, strong yet delicate.

Northern Sea Oats
Northern Sea Oats


Northern Sea Oats

And of course, Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) shines at this time of year.

Little Bluestem Carousel
Little Bluestem ‘Carousel’ with Calamint


Little Bluestem Carousel

I’m very happy with my new ‘Carousel’ Little Bluestem’ (Schizachyrium scoparium). See how the stems seem to be striped like a green candy cane? The Chicago Botanic Garden evaluation garden gave this variety their top rating.

After this weekend I hope to have some leaf color from the trees, shrubs, and perennials. Until then, what’s your favorite ornamental grass at this time of year?

Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day is sponsored by Christina at Creating My Own Garden Of The Hesperides. Check out her site for more beautiful foliage.


36 Comments on “GBFD October 2013: Grasses In Their Autumn Glory

  1. Well you nailed my favorite with that great NSO capture. But being that I can’t reach up and position my wheelchair just right to cut the seeds off before they shatter, you won’t find it in any garden of mine. Would have to manage my begging for favors list just right to prevent an attack from the sea oats of the north.

  2. Thanks for joining in GBFD this month. What would the autumn garden be without grasses?! I love them all the time as you know. I have the Panicum but in my dry soil it barely reaches 1.2 m even with the flowers.

  3. My favorite grasses are the straight species of Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis). Native grasses are not only beautiful, but vital for the health of our soil. 1/3 of their massive root systems decompose every year, adding organic matter to the soil and opening up channels for rain water to infiltrate rather than running off.

  4. That switchgrass is really pretty. I have recently planted a very small Chasmanthium, so I’ll have to wait till next autumn to see the seedheads. I think my favourite at the moment is my dwarf Miscanthus – ‘Adagio’. It looks lovely in the sun, and can remain standing almost all winter.

  5. For a first year garden plant, that Panicum ‘Northwind’ is high on my list. I placed mine at the very back of a border that faces south. Even though they’re flopfests in my garden I’ve always been partial to the graceful fall beauty of Miscanthus. Most have been removed over the years but I still have a favored few like ‘Morning Light’ and ‘Sarabande’.

  6. My favorite grass this year (and usually every year) is my Pink Muhly grass. I have really been eyeing the northern sea oats but wondering if they will bring in the deer. I need to check that out. Your little bluestem is interesting too. Our fall colors are just now beginning here and I’m looking forward to the colors of fall.

  7. You know I love ‘Northwind’, it’s such a fabulous grass for long-season structure…and I adore it right now, with those billowing clouds of bloom. I’ve never seen ‘Carousel’ for sale around here…will have to keep an eye out (not that I have room)! My favorite changes by the minute, but variety of Little Bluestem that I do have (‘Blue Heaven’) is truly stunning…it just keeps getting more and more beautiful each day, it seems…sometimes I wish I could go back in time and plant whole swathes of it where I have other things! I’m trying out a few varieties of Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) this year and both of them have been outstanding…no flopping (which for us of mild summers is a big deal)! If you ever see either ‘Indian Warrior’ or ‘Red October’…grab them…I think you’ll be pleased!

  8. My Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’ is still looking great, despite the cooler temps and lots of moisture. While many of the seed heads are turning tan, plenty are still rose colored, providing great contrast. It’s also the perfect size for my garden, topping out at about three feet high and three feet wide.

    • I’d be very surprised if there weren’t grasses that would work well in your garden, though I don’t know enough to suggest any.

  9. The Northern Sea Oats are gorgeous. You’ve done a good job with adding plants that provide seasonal interest. My garden is pretty much blah when the roses are done blooming..

    • Is fall very dry where you are? I would think there are plants that would carry the show after the roses, though sounds like the roses will always provide the primary season of interest.

  10. Chasmantium and Panicum are beautiful. My favourites are MIscanthus Morning Light, Pennisetum alopec. f. viridescens and P. Moudry, the latter being late bloomers but all the more welcome for it.

  11. I’ve always liked grasses but I’ve never grown them. Back in my days as a gardener grasses weren’t often usen in gardens like they are today. I like the northern sea oats. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

  12. We seem to always have the same weather. Our temps dropped to where they were predicting snow. No snow yet, but it got chilly. No color here either for the most part. Should be this week though. Garden plants changed, but not many trees.

    • I just got back from a business trip, and tomorrow I will inspect the garden to see if there is much leaf color. My fear is maybe everything will just go from green to brown.

  13. Your grasses really put on a good show for fall. I like the image of the Switchgrass ‘flowers’ and Monarda seed head–nice photo. I have only one grass–a pink muhly grass.

  14. I love the carousel too! Our weekly gardening tv show featured a grass only garden a couple of weeks back, I do love grasses and yours look great. I have a few in my front garden, all I know is they’re black & red! I just refer to them as grass! Very novice of me even though they’ve been in there around 10 years! If I had a huge garden I would definitely go for some pampas grass because I hold fond memories of the stuff from gardens in my childhood and I love it’s form and texture.

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