Updated: Feb 25
The 70s are 'in' big time this year, from fashion to floral design, and everywhere in-between. Think goldenrod accents and tan foliage swaying romantically in the breeze--its like boho-chic took a minimalist turn while returning to some earthy roots. Here I will explore how this exciting trend can be implemented in YOUR garden-- specifically the zone 4, 5, and 6 gardens where winter is an actual thing that actually limits a lot of our growing options. Not one to be limited, I have found us some awesome options to get our gardens on trend!
Since my design style is ALL about the flowers, in the past grasses have not even taken a back seat to my garden or floral design--they weren't even invited on the trip. As I mature as a designer, however, I find that even the finest art can benefit from the proper frame. "Filler" often provides this frame for flowers and grasses make an awesome filler.
While pompas grass is really the star of the ornamental grass show these days, it's only hardy to zone 7 so it is NOT an option for us Colorado growers (or anyone growing in an area that experiences actual winters).
But that doesn't mean we can't have grasses in our gardens or locally grown options in our floral designs! As I design the plantings for some NEW grow beds (Yay!), I'm stepping back from focusing on only the flowers and researching how I will anchor these beds with some perennial options to give me more interesting, local filler options, and also keep the space looking full throughout the year.
In landscape design grasses have an abundance of uses: tall grasses make great screens, tall and midsize grasses can be inter-and underplanted with flowers to fill in blank spaces and bring movement to a garden, shorter grasses can plump up a garden without tiring out the eye by over-doing it with flowers (ha! as if that's a thing).
What's more, grasses provide year-round interest and can be successfully implemented in garden styles from cottage to contemporary.
While my ideal garden is English cottage with a dash of victorian ornamentalism, I live in a high altitude dessert and have to pay the city for my water (so, much, water). So, I'm learning to garden within my environmental and financial limitations. Well, turns out prairie grasses do exceptionally well here (go figure, prairie plants work in a suburb that used to be prairie!) and tend to be pretty water wise! Some quick research into grasses recommended by the big-time growers and landscape firms here in Colorado and a few "work-related" trips to the Denver Botanic Gardens have led me recommend these 4 grasses. Among them you will find grasses that thrive in Colorado, will return year after year, do well in full sun to partial shade, are water wise, and provide year round interest, I plan to plant ALL of them!
1. Little Blue Stem --
Plant Height: 24 inches
Flower Height: 32 inches
Spread: 18 inches
Hardiness Zone: 3
Other Names: Carousel Bluestem
A dwarf, rounded grass with blue-green blades and bronzed purple flowers.
Redish seeded plumes last fall and early winter. Produces spikes of deep purple flowers rising above the foliage in late summer, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The brick red stems are very colorful and add to the overall interest of the plant.
Growing: A relatively low maintenance plant that is best cut back to the ground in late winter. This plant should only be grown in full sunlight. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under typical garden conditions. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is native to parts of North America. It can be propagated by division. Will live up to 10 year with proper conditions.
Landscape Applications: Mass Planting, Groundcover.
(I want 6 for two mass plantings of 3 each)
2. Karley Rose Fountain Grass
Plant Height: 24 inches
Flower Height: 3 feet
Spread: 24 inchesSunlight: Full
Hardiness Zone: 5
Description: Fluffy pink seed heads rise above fine textured foliage on this particularly hardy variety of perennial fountain grass.
Karley Rose Oriental Fountain Grass features showy plumes of pink flowers rising above the foliage from mid summer to mid fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its attractive grassy leaves remain green in color throughout the season.
Growing: Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. Under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years. This plant should only be grown in full sunlight. This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats.
Landscape Applications:Accent, Mass Planting, Rock/Alpine Gardens, Container Planting
(I want 3-6 to intersperse around the new beds)
3. Karl Foerster Reed Grass
Height: 5 feet
Spread: 32 inches
Sunlight: Full to partial sun
Hardiness Zone: 5
Take this Pampas Grass! Karl Foerster Reed Grass produces tan seed heads are carried on showy plumes displayed in abundance from late summer to late winter. It features bold plumes of rose flowers rising above the foliage in mid summer. Its grassy leaves are green in color.
Growing: It tends to be leggy, with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and should be underplanted with lower-growing perennials, can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.
This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cut back to the ground in late winter before active growth resumes
Landscape Attributes: Vertical, Accent, Mass Planting, Naturalizing, Woodland Gardens, Container Planting
4. Morning Light Maiden Grass
Height: 5 feet
Spread: 3 feet
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Hardiness Zone: 4
Morning Light Maiden Grass features bold plumes of coppery-bronze flowers rising above the foliage in late summer. Its attractive grassy leaves are green in color with distinctive white edges. The foliage often turns tan in fall. The creamy white seed heads are carried on showy plumes displayed in abundance from early fall to late winter.
Growing: It tends to be leggy, with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and should be underplanted with lower-growing perennials. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 20 years. It is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season.
Landscape Attributes: Vertical, Accent, Mass Planting, Hedges/Screening
And since I'm sick of looking at grass
& always need more flowers: