There's so much that changes in the MG landscape throughout the year...we thought a plant trial and garden blog was the best way to start sharing "what's new" and "what's happening with all those new varieties" with you! Visit often for updates on how trial plants are performing in the gardens and to see photos throughout the season as we grow and change!

Welcome to the Midwest Groundcovers Landscape Blog

Welcome to the Midwest Groundcovers Landscape Blog
Astilbe 'Vision in Red' with Hosta 'Patriot' and Carex 'Ice Dance'

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Grass seed

It's a great day to show off some seeds! The best way to identify one grass genus from another is to look at the seeds. That is how they separated the Schizachyrium from the Andropogon. The seeds are clearly different! Here are a few samples.
Sporobolus heterolepis
These are the most unique because of the fragrance emitted from the seed heads. The oils from this plant are reminiscent of buttered popcorn, or in my opinion it is more like cilantro. They create this nice airy appearance that works well with many other perennials.

Schizachyrium scoparium
Another native grass, that looks much different from the first. These seed heads are hairy in appearance. In the right sunlight, they glow white. Mixed with the various colors of the foliage in fall, these are quite the texture plant.

Andropogon gerardii
This one also gets some of the hairy appearance that little blue stem gets, but the seed head is arranged differently. On close inspection, they look much like their other common name, a turkey foot. They are typically much darker in color and have orange flowers that dangle gently as they first emerge.

Bouteloua curtipendula
This one is called side oats grama. I've not figured out what a grama is. It's definitely not like my parents parents. And I don't think it has anything to do with the India government. But, the side oats part makes sense. As you can see, the seeds all sit on one side of the stem and make for an elegant grass. These grow around 24" tall and 30" wide in our landscape.

Sorghastrum nutans
Of the native grasses, I think there are none more beautiful than Indian Grass. For a couple days, the yellow blooms are quite a show. But you have to see them those couple of days or they are gone. Even after bloom, the seed head takes on this goldish tone and looks brilliant en masse.

Panicum virgatum
As you can see, the seed heads of switch grass can be very colorful. There are varieties of switch grass with yellowish seed heads as well. Varieties like Panicum 'Northwind' are like that. The pictured plant is from P. 'Shenendoah' which is touted as one of the best reds.

Panicum amarum
This type has very long panicles. In the landscape at Midwest Groundcovers, the panicles reach 3' and lean over to grab you. They like a little support to keep them up. The seeds are creamy white with little black flowers. It will reseed readily in wet areas. This is a native to the east coast.

Pennisetum alopecuroides
Pictured is 'Piglet' which has been a phenomenal performer by the way. These are some of the easiest to identify because they are very interesting. It's hard to walk by fountain grass and not grab a hold. Typically emerging darker and fading to a straw yellow color.

Calamagrostis x acutifolia
These are Karl Foersters of course. One of the other most recognizable grasses. What sets these apart is their early spring bloom. These have the greatest longevity of seed head if you are really looking for that. They originally emerge pinkish-green and then fade to brown.

Miscanthus sinensis
There are many faces to Miscanthus sinensis. In our landscape, there seems to be more by the day. We have a unique situation where we have many different varieties of maiden grasses and together they set seeds. All of these pictured are of seedlings not originally intended for the landscape. Some are more beautiful than others, yet we are about to take them out. I have more seedlings than I do plants that were intended for the area. One even came up that was fine textured like Miscanthus 'Gracillimus' but with fall color greater than 'Purpurascens' or 'Autumn Red'.
As you can see, there is a great world of grasses on the market for you. I've just touched on a few. I deleted photos of Deschampsia and Molinia to go with what I have here. Not to mention, Sesleria, Carex, and Festuca just to name a few. And the variations within a species and genus can be tremendous. Miscanthus 'Gracillimus' hardly flowers in our climate, but M. 'Silberfeder' is a perennial stunner! Panicum, Molinia, and Miscanthus are often selected solely on the flowers.
I hope you have enjoyed the grasses this week. Thanks again for taking the time to read about them. I hope I can entertain and educate at the same time. Until next time, have a great day!

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