Appeals and Advantages
of Ornamental Grasses
The Annual Cycle
Catalogs, Tags, and Books
Our Selections - The
Ones We Grow & Why
Planting, watering, etc.
How We Operate &
How to Contact/Visit Us
About Catalogs and Reference Books
Most reference books and articles on grasses do an excellent job of inspiring readers about the virtues and many uses of grasses - but seldom will you find enough information to caution you on the potential (or even certain) negatives of a particular grass. These omissions range from the need to stake certain varieties to the need to cut flowers before they go to seed to keep a grass from taking over your entire garden - and perhaps the lawn, too. (We've eliminated all of these from our mix!) In some cases, the hazards only concern certain areas of the country or particular growing conditions - but it is very common for these considerations not to be mentioned at all.
To be safe rather than sorry:
- Consult a local grower or nursery that has at least a few years' experience in your area with the specific grass you're considering.
- Consult with friends - or even strangers - in your area who have used particular grasses.
- Check several reference books, and interpret even vaguely "possible" negatives as "likely" disasters, unless a local grower can reassure you otherwise.
- It is very common to read about the same grass in multiple references and get significantly different opinions from different authors on almost any characteristic of that grass: how tall it gets, when it will bloom, what color it opens, what zone it's hardy to, what soil it "prefers," how much sun it needs, etc.
You need to be aware that these characteristics are not precise, and that behavior and appearance may vary somewhat from place to place and year to year - even in different areas of your yard.
A lot has to do with where the author got most of his or her experience. Where the book was first published can be greatly revealing. Canadian and British authors, for example, will often quote shorter heights and later blooming times than mid-Atlantic growers in the U.S., because their climate is cooler and growing season shorter.
Once again, an experienced local grower can probably give you much more accurate expectations for your area.
"Zone" - Our experience is that most authors are conservative when giving zone ratings. We're growing many presumably Zone 6 grasses with no difficulty whatsoever in Zone 5, and have customers having success with those same grasses even in Zone 4. They may be a bit shorter, or bloom slightly later, but there seems to be a reasonable margin of safety in most published zone ratings. In fact, the USDA Hardiness Zone Map is currently under review in light of many warmer winters in recent years.
If we were really attracted to a grass that's rated one zone warmer than where we are, we'd certainly not hesitate to try a few.
- Names - You may find especially the "common" names for grasses used differently in different books, and you will certainly find some grasses with multiple common names, especially if they are common in other parts of the world. Usually going to the scientific name will resolve any uncertainty over identity.