Ornamental grasses conserve resources

May 16, 1992|By C. Z. Guest | C. Z. Guest,Copley News Service

Your common green lawn not only requires a great deal of upkeep, it also uses a lot of water. Of course, water can be scarce during drought conditions.

Opting to plant ornamental grasses is one way to save water and add beauty to your landscape. Though in the same family as ordinary turf, ornamental grasses are the best plants I know of for your outdoor design.

The artistry of landscaping with ornamental grasses goes beyond the drama these herbaceous clusters can add to the scene. It encompasses a philosophy of achieving an aesthetically satisfying look while conserving natural resources.

Many ornamental grasses sport shades of white, pink, cream, blue and even blood red.

The beauty of ornamental grasses goes beyond their long, elegant leaves and graceful blossoms. These perennials also are a drought-tolerant addition to the garden requiring little, if any, water.

This is especially true when the soil is conditioned properly with Canadian sphagnum peat moss, which holds up to 20 times its weight in water and releases it slowly to thirsty plant roots. The strong, deep root system of ornamental grasses also reduces the effects of erosion by preventing soil from being blown or washed away.

Low maintenance is another quality of ornamental grasses that is appreciated by the busy homeowner. Unlike lawn grasses that traditionally are mowed, ornamentals are left to grow naturally.

The only care required is cutting the stems down to ground level before the plants begin to grow in spring. Occasionally, dead leaves can be removed from the center of the grass clumps in order to maintain a neat appearance.

Ornamental grasses also add enchantment to the landscape as they change with the seasons. Their striking flower spikes rise above the clusters of leaves in spring and summer, turning into stately seed heads in fall.

The fronds themselves begin growing in spring, mature during the summer and show a range of colors in fall.

All varieties of ornamental grasses prefer to be planted in sunny locations and in rich loamy soil. Because they are perennial and will, therefore, be gracing the same site for years to come, preparing the soil is a good investment in your garden.

To prepare the planting bed, turn the soil over to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, spread a 6-inch layer of Canadian peat, add the recommended amount of fertilizer, work the ingredients into the soil and rake smooth.

Plants can now be set in place according to your landscape design.

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