Extend Your Landscape Season With Ornamental Grasses

The landscape season in New Hampshire starts off with a bang in early spring with a showy display from flowering shrubs like Rhododendrons and Azaleas, to a host of ornamental trees such as Crabapples, Dogwoods and Callery Pears. Once the spring-flowering shrub display fades, summer brings on a kaleidoscope of color with herbaceous perennials taking center stage and annual flowers lining the borders of planting beds and filling containers.

By early September, however, the flower show is mostly over – with the exception of some Rudbeckia, Asters and Sedum dotting the landscape with color here and there.

But the weather is just getting good! You aren’t ready for winter yet! Is there anything that you can add to keep your gardens interesting until winter actually arrives?

The answer is a hearty “yes!” – you can add ornamental grasses! Ornamental grasses can extend the landscape season in New Hampshire by providing texture, color, and movement when other plants have faded into dormancy.

Designing with Ornamental Grasses

To create year-round interest, you’ll want to strategically place ornamental grasses into your landscape. Here are some ways that you might use them in your yard:

  • Mixed Borders: Plant ornamental grasses alongside other perennials and shrubs. Their tall, graceful plumes can add height and contrast to your garden beds.
  • Focal Points: Use grasses as focal points or specimen plants. A single, large grass, such as Miscanthus sinensis, can draw attention and provide structure during the winter.
  • Mass Planting: Create a mass planting of ornamental grasses for a dramatic effect. This works particularly well in open areas or along property lines.
  • Containers: Don’t forget about containers! Many ornamental grasses can thrive in pots and can be moved around to create visual interest where needed.

Popular Ornamental Grasses

Selecting the right type of grass is important – not only to get the desired effect – but also to ensure that the variety you choose thrives where it is planted. Here’s a quick primer on some of the hardy varieties that are popular in New Hampshire Landscapes

Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’

This dwarf fountain grass forms neat, compact mounds of delicate green foliage with fluffy, bottlebrush-like flower spikes. During the fall, these grasses develop a stunning bronze hue.

‘Little Bunny’ is also deer-resistant, making it a practical choice for many New Hampshire gardens.

Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass)

Japanese Forest Grass 'Aureola' in a New Hampshire Garden

This grass thrives in partial to full shade, making it a versatile option for areas in your garden that receive less sunlight. This variety, known as ‘Aureola’ adds a pop of color to a shady planting with its striking yellow foliage leaves.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ (Porcupine Grass)

‘Strictus’ stands tall with its stiff, upright stems adorned with horizontal bands of yellow and green foliage. In early fall, it produces attractive feathery plumes that gracefully sway in the breeze.

Other Benefits of Ornamental Grasses in the Landscape

Ornamental grasses offer more than just aesthetic beauty in your landscape. They provide numerous environmental benefits too.

  • Wildlife-friendly habitat. Especially when planted en-masse, these plants offer shelter and sustenance to birds and insects.
  • Erosion control. Their extensive root systems help stabilize soil and prevent erosion, making them particularly well-suited for planting on slopes. This functional aspect adds to their appeal in landscape design.
  • Low-maintenance. Once established, ornamental grasses require minimal care. They are generally resistant to pests and diseases, most will tolerate some drought conditions, and you don’t even need to cut them back in the fall!

Does your landscape “go flat” in the fall? Contact Groundhog Landscaping to find out how we can help extend the color and beauty through every season!

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