Don’t forget ornamental grasses in planning your garden


Don’t forget ornamental grasses in planning your garden

While flowers most often play the role of show queens in our gardens, don’t discount the wow factor of native and adapted ornamental grasses in Central Texas.

Even colorful, blooming gardens need depth and dimension. Too many similar plants deprive the garden of relativity. Placement of contrasting plants allows each individual plant to stand out against the backdrop of its neighbors.

To achieve harmony and add interest to your garden this summer, consider the role of texture — how coarse or fine the plant or hardscape material feels and looks.

A broad range of plant textures will affect the overall balance in your garden, giving it context. Mixing textures is important so you can tell where one plant or area begins and another ends.

One of my favorite plant pairings is a large, structural agave next to soft, billowy feather grasses that move with the wind. Or a deep red knockout rose beside the regal cream-colored plumes of big muhly grass.

Ornamental grasses also make a wonderful alternative to thirsty perennials and annuals. They are extremely versatile. Most varieties are hardy, drought-tolerant, pest-free and low-maintenance. They range from a few inches high to more than 6 feet tall.

The tiny flowers on long plumes are called inflorescence, and their colors run the gamut from greens, golds and browns to pinks and maroons. The decorative plumage and seedpods can be dried for decorative use in arrangements inside or outside.

Grasses look wonderful in the garden mixed in with perennials, but there is nothing quite as dramatic as a mass planting of grasses to make a statement in the landscape. A long strip of gulf muhly grasses blowing in the breeze brings beautiful movement into the garden.

Most grasses grow in the warm season and remain dormant through the winter, but some hold onto their seed heads, making for interesting structure and form in the garden when blooms are scarce. They also provide both food and habitat for birds.

Technically speaking, some of the plants we call ornamental grasses are actually rushes, sedges or even cattails. Real grasses are in the Gramineae family.

Grasses grow and reproduce in two ways. Some spread by underground rhizomes or as a bunch grass, which does not spread underground. Some seeds sprout easily, growing volunteers where the wind has dropped the seed.

Grasses are also low-maintenance — just cut them all the way back in early spring and they will reward you with new growth year after year. You can shear them down to between 4 inches and 6 inches above the ground to allow new growth to come through.

Grasses are an easy, drought-tolerant addition to the garden. Their billowy plumes and interesting array of colors will add structure, form and movement to your landscape.

Good grasses for Central Texas

Ruby crystals — The puffy pink flowers of ruby grass can grow to 2 feet by 15 inches and are stunning in fall bloom.

Mexican feather grass — This perky little plant grows to about 18 inches by 18 inches and just keeps on performing in the garden. It self-sows prolifically.

Gulf muhly — The glowing pink hue of these blooms is stunning when massed in the garden. This bunch grass grows to about 2½ feet by 3 feet

Lindheimer’s muhly — Tall creamy plumes on this bunch grass turn to silver in winter and provide striking structure in the winter garden at 2 to 4 feet tall.

Bamboo muhly — With an unusually tall and weeping growth habit of 4-5 feet, this muhly has an airy, ephemeral look, instead of the straighter growth habits of most grasses.

Little bluestem — This is a true prairie bunch grass and can survive in many different soils. Its very upright 3 feet by 1½ feet growth habit has a wild look and works best in a meadow-style setting.

Purple fountain grass — The maroon color of the foliage of purple fountain grass, topped by its buff-colored plumes, is striking in any setting. Growing up to 3 feet tall, it demands a place to shine in the garden.

Dwarf fountain grass — Fluffy cream-colored tufts arch above a short clump of delicate green foliage that turns golden in the fall. At about 2 feet by 2 feet, it’s a compact bundle of pretty form in the garden.


Find the swimsuit that fits your body

Ugh, swimsuit season again? Petticoat Fair gave us a glimpse of some of the new looks it has in its store. Before you shop, figure out what your body type needs.

Need something slimming? Buyer Kali Andrews recommends the Magicsuit, which she likens to the Spanx of swimwear. Have a fuller top? Go for a bralette that gives more coverage to hold in the assets. Minimize the tummy with side ruching and flowing fabric. Accentuate curves with a one-piece that holds everything in but doesn’t go too high at the top. Go ultratrendy in bikini with crochet overlay to still provide coverage.

Petticoat Fair is at 7739 Northcross Drive, Suite M,


Get your locks ready for spring

Jose Luis Salon offers its list of top spring hair trends. Bold and sleek is in, as are unique styles and waves. Find Jose Luis Salon at 1717 W. Sixth St. Suite 123 and 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. Suite 2135. A third location is expected to open up this fall at the Domain and include a boutique.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Austin360 recreation list, April 27-May 3

Markets Barton Creek Farmers Markets. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Parking lot of Barton Creek Square, intersection of South MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and South Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360). 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays at 2323 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-443-0143, Bastrop Producers Market. Indoor farmers market. 11 a.m. to 7...
Fit City: Don’t miss these four upcoming sweat-inducing events
Fit City: Don’t miss these four upcoming sweat-inducing events

Award-winning climber Maya Madere, 17, boulders in the cave at Crux Climbing Center in 2016. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN Looking for some cool, fitness-oriented events in the comings weeks? These caught our eye: Crux Climbing Center, an indoor climbing center, celebrates its second anniversary with Come and Send It Fest from 9:30 a.m.-10...
Al Gore picks up Lady Bird Award from LBJ Foundation
Al Gore picks up Lady Bird Award from LBJ Foundation

On April 24, the Luci Baines Johnson and  Lynda Johnson Robb handed over a blue globe resting in bronze hands to former Vice-President  Al Gore as part of the 2018  Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Award ceremony in New York City. Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson...
Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria sets — and meets — the highest standards
Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria sets — and meets — the highest standards

Ethereal location. Elegant crowd. Exquisite cuisine. Excellent art. For the past five years, the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria has benefited the Contemporary Austin. Hosts expertly employ the arboreal setting on the grounds of the Clara Driscoll villa to create an elevated atmosphere at dusk and into the evening. This year, that effort included the looping...
The best and worst paint colors for every room
The best and worst paint colors for every room

Colors have a proven psychological effect on our moods. And the colors we choose for our homes have a proven influence on our overall quality of life. Using color psychology, we can create a home that relaxes, energizes and focuses us where and when we need it most. It just takes knowing which colors to use in which room — and which colors to...
More Stories