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For The Garden

Grasses With Purpose

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: October, 2013, Page 122
SEEP MUHLY
(Muhlenbergia reverchonii)



SEEP MUHLY
(Muhlenbergia reverchonii)


Type: Grass

Elevation: Low, mid, high; hardy to –10 degrees F

Blooms: Light pink to reddish-pink; fall

Size: 2-3'H by 2'W

Soil: Dry, rocky limestone to moist clay

Light: Full sun to part shade

Water needs: Low to moderate

Maintenance: Cut back in early spring to rejuvenate.

Note: Features similar gauzy pink seed heads as those of gulf muhly, although it is more cold tolerant. Plant where seed heads are backlit by the sun to maximize impact.

Why we like it: Smaller in size than most Muhlenbergia, it fits nicely in compact landscapes. This deer-resistant plant tolerates cold, heat, aridity and humidity.


WINDBREAKER GIANT SACATON GRASS (Sporobolus wrightii ‘Windbreaker’)
WINDBREAKER GIANT SACATON GRASS (Sporobolus wrightii ‘Windbreaker’)

Type: Grass

Elevation: Low, mid, high; hardy to –30 degrees F

Blooms: Green; late summer to fall

Size: 8-10'H by 8-10'W

Soil: Alkaline

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Cut back in late winter to rejuvenate.

Note: Native from southeastern Arizona to west Texas at elevations from 2,000-7,000 feet. Good substitute for non-native pampas grass, which is invasive.

Why we like it: Creates an effective erosion-control windbreak or living fence in difficult arid, sandy or rocky conditions. Dramatic feathery seed heads are borne on stalks up to 12 feet tall.


BLONDE AMBITION BLUE GRAMA GRASS
(Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’)
BLONDE AMBITION BLUE GRAMA GRASS
(Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’)


Type: Grass

Elevation: Low, mid, high; hardy to –20 degrees F

Blooms: Chartreuse; spring to summer

Size: 21/2-3'H by 2 1/2-3'W

Soil: Tolerant of most soils

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Mow or cut back hard to the ground in early spring to rejuvenate.

Note: Although not a thirsty plant, providing extra water during hot summers in low deserts promotes a more lush appearance.

Why we like it: Flower heads mature into blonde seed heads that resemble golden eyelashes fluttering over the foliage, hanging on for months to provide visual interest through winter.


SIDEOATS GRAMA
(Bouteloua curtipendula)
SIDEOATS GRAMA
(Bouteloua curtipendula)


Type: Grass

Elevation: Low, mid, high; hardy to –30 degrees F

Blooms: Purple; spring through summer

Size: 2'H by 1–11/2'W

Soil: Tolerant of most soils

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low; in the low desert, apply extra water in summer.

Maintenance: Cut back or mow in early spring to rejuvenate.

Note: “Sideoats” refers to oat-like seeds that form on one side of the stalk. This warm-season grass goes dormant in winter.

Why we like it: A good wildlife plant, it is a larval host for varied skipper butterflies and provides seeds and nesting material for birds.


Other Favorites:
Bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa); deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens); feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’); Mexican thread grass (Stipa tenuissima); pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)
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