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Plant Ornamental Grasses for Simple, Elegant Beauty

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I was born and raised in Colorado.  Maybe that’s why I’m naturally drawn to gardens that are less formal… a bit more natural and reflective of where we live.  That could also help explain my love of ornamental grasses.

The word “ornamental” is used to distinguish these grasses from turf grass, the mowed and more demanding plants we call “lawns.”  Very different plants…. very different roles in our landscapes.

As we focus on the wonderful appeal of flowers, let’s also look at how beautifully and easily ornamental grasses can enhance our gardens by adding texture and movement all year long.

Part of the appeal of ornamental grasses is how easy they are to grow.   Tagawa’s carries a wide variety of ornamental grasses well-suited to this area.  By following a few very basic do’s and don’ts, you’ll be off and running with these amazing plants!

Everyone knows “Karl,” right?

Even if you don’t recognize the name “Karl Foerster,” odds are you pass this ornamental grass every day.  It’s a go-to grass routinely planted along roadways, public buildings and in home gardens, too.

Karl Foerster Grass at Tagawa Gardens Denver

Karl Foerster is an especially upright ornamental grass.  It’s easily recognizable by the fairly short, bright green blades of grass that spill out at the base.  The tall, wheat-colored plumes stand up straight and tall.

Karl Foerster, like most ornamental grasses, needs well-drained soil and full sun.  While it’s labeled for “full to part sun,” go with at least six hours of direct sun whenever possible.  The plant will be stronger and produce more “flowers,” the seeds heads we value.

In our climate, Karl Foerster averages about three- to four feet tall and one- to two-feet wide when it’s full grown.

Interested in something a little softer?

Blue Oat grass is anything but upright or the least bit stiff or formal.  Grown properly (full sun and free to display gracefully), it’s a stunner!

Blue Oat Grass at Tagawa Gardens Denver

Blue Oat grass creates a lovely mounded silhouette of thin, gently arching blue-green leaves.  It can grow to be two- to three-feet tall and two feet wide.  It has delicate seed heads on thin, upright stems.

Blue Oat grass prefers moderate to somewhat dry conditions, and will not tolerate wet soils.

A grass that lives up to its name…

One look and you’ll know why it’s called “Zebra Grass.”  What fun!  This grass is nothing if not flashy!

Zebra Grass at Tagawa Gardens Denver

Zebra grass is described as “a real show-stopper” for good reason.  The bold horizontal bars across the rich green leaves almost look like an accident from Mother Nature, like some kind of misprint.

Zebra grass can get quite large, up to four-feet tall and three feet wide.  It will send up bronze-colored seed heads in late summer. Zebra grass likes a bit more moisture than some other ornamental grasses, but it’s well worth it!

No fall pruning!

A big part of the payback with ornamental grasses is what we plant geeks like to call “winter interest.”  Does the plant add beauty or movement or general appeal to the landscape once the growing season is over?  Ornamental grasses do that beautifully.

Unless the grass is damaged or unsightly for some reason, don’t it back in the fall when you’re cleaning up the rest of your garden.  Let it put on its winter show!  The hard pruning should come in late winter, just before the plant begins to send up new shoots.

Take a little care to clean up the stubble once the grass is actively growing again.  Get rid of any parts of the old plant that aren’t coming back.  Half beautiful grass and half old stubble is not a good look!

Come check them out!

Tagawa’s carries a wonderful array of different types of ornamental grasses…. short, tall, wide, arching.  Our Perennials Specialists will be happy to guide you to the best choice for you garden.  We encourage you to bring pictures on your smartphone so we can see exactly where you’d like to plant these wonderful grasses.

For more information…

Roxann, a ten-year veteran of Tagawa’s Perennials Department, will be teaching a free class on ornamental grasses at Tagawa’s on July 7th at noon.  Great information from a great teacher!  Hope to see you there!

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Luan Akin
About 
Luan Akin
Tagawa Gardens Outreach Ambassador

After 30 years as a news reporter for KCNC TV in Denver, Luan Akin was ready for a change. In 2008, she came to Tagawa Gardens and offered to create a brand new position: Garden Outreach Ambassador.

Luan had trained and volunteered as a Douglas County Master Gardener for ten years. In addition to her duties as a news reporter, working primarily out of the Channel 4 News helicopter, Luan also produced and presented a long-running series of stories called “Gardening Together.”

All these years later, Luan now works year ‘round, presenting a variety of gardening and nature-related topics to hundreds of children, HOA’s, gardening clubs, church groups, small businesses and other organizations.

She is an avid gardener, a beekeeper and a proud mom to four dogs who have trained her well.

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