With the end of the summer blooms just around the corner, we’d like to turn your attention to a less flashy garden dweller who will stick around for the winter months...grasses! There’s something great about cheering for the deserving but unrecognized underdog, wanting them to win out against all the odds.
The unsung hero who quietly goes about their hard work and never falters even though they aren’t in the spotlight. It makes movies like Rocky and Slumdog Millionaire all the more satisfying as we wait for the underdog to finally get his day. In your garden the grass plants can often be overlooked, which is too bad because they are year-round hard workers, really the unsung garden heroes you need.
Five Reasons We Think Grasses Are the Champions of Your Garden
THE EASY-GOING SUPERSTAR
Once established in your garden, grasses are often maintenance free! (We’re not talking about the carpet of green grass on your lawn that needs constant loving, that’s a different story.) A bit of water, some sun and soil, and they are happy plants! In the winter you may need to protect them a bit from the freezing temperatures or snow by adding mulch around their base, like you would with other annuals in your garden.
A BIT OF A STRETCH
Unlike bushy plants, grasses can fill a void in your garden with their vertical height. Many are tall and lanky, but don’t actually take up much space, so they can fit in-between your other plants without hogging groundspace. Grass varieties come in heights that range from 1-8’. In the winter, when other plants are hibernating, grasses will stand tall and fill out your yard.
DOESN’T EVEN NEED A WATER BREAK
Grasses need less water than your other plants. Often they are drought friendly, which makes them perfect for hot summers when water-restrictions kick in. Grasses are perfect for eco-friendly gardens that are trying to restrict chemicals, fertilizers and heavy water use.
KEEPS A CROWD OF FRIENDLY FANS
Many grasses, especially those native to your area, will attract friendly creatures to your garden including bees, butterflies and birds. Butterflies love the nooks and crannies of safety in your grass bushes. Birds are attracted to your grasses for cover, as well as a food source. They love to eat the seeds from your grasses, or use the fallen stems for their nests in Spring.
MAKE IT A MUSICAL!
As your grasses grow taller, the wind rustling through them will create a beautiful soundscape for your yard. As well the movement from grasses adds interest to your fall and winter landscape, kind of like the chorus dancers in musicals. Grasses with feathery-plumes (such as Fountain Grass) add even more interest as they sway in the breeze.
Tips to Turn Your Underdog Grasses into Garden Heroes
Three’s Not a Crowd
Grasses don’t have to live alone, you can plant your grasses in sets of three or more to create interesting areas in your garden. Mix it up and plant different kinds of grasses together to create a beautiful variety of textures, colours and heights.
Growing Through Adversity
You can give your grasses a hair-cut in the spring if you feel like they are getting a bit too tall and lanky. If your grass is under 3’ tall, you can trim it back to 1-3 inches. Anything over 3’ can be cut down to 3-5 inches. Don’t worry, it will grow back stronger than ever.
Keeping It Under Control
Some grasses are clump-forming, and some are spreading. What’s the difference? Clump forming grasses stay in their little area and play nicely with others. They will get larger, but won’t invade. Spreading grasses, on the other-hand, will take any kind of advantage they can to take over other areas of your garden. You have to watch them carefully! Another idea is to only use spreading grasses in containers, where they can’t escape.
Divide and Conquer
When your clumping grasses get too large you can divide them up into smaller plants. Hardy and strong, grasses can easily be divided with a sharp shovel, or prongs, to cut the roots into two plants. Make sure you do this when the grasses are in their growing season (Spring is best) and don’t leave their roots exposed for long. Dig them up, divide them, and plant them right away with some water to help them get settled.
Have we made a believer out of you yet? Grasses are definitely a must have in any garden for their beauty, unique height and movement, as well as their easy-going nature. If you have questions about grasses, feel free to ask us and our garden experts on twitter or facebook.