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When we have an extremely dry summer season, and the deer seem to be eating

“everything” on the deer-resistant lists; ornamental grasses are deer resistant plants that

many people are unfamiliar with. Ornamental grasses are fabulous, under-utilized plants

in any landscape throughout the year, yet it seems the majority of them show their

majestic beauty during the autumn in our area. There are many magnificent grasses,

especially native grasses, which can be utilized to compliment and add drama and depth

to the garden that are drought-tolerant and can thrive in the central Texas environment. I

highly recommend reading “Gardening with Grasses”, Michael King-Piet Oudolf/Timber

Press, Inc. for more information.

Fountain grasses (Pennisetum) are wonderful in the fall garden. These grasses appear

dramatic when used to define a corner site, as well as being positioned to rise out of

an area of lower growing plants. Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum,

‘Rubrum’) is extremely drought-tolerant and adds terrific contrast to the garden with

broad purple leaves and arching feathery pink-colored flower spikes that bloom

throughout the growing season. Purple Fountain Grass is cold tolerant to 20 degrees.

Black Flowering Fountain Grass is a smaller grass clump producing black furry

caterpillar-like plumes. Two dwarf varieties are used often in the area: ‘Little Bunny’

and ‘Dwarf Hamelin’. ‘Little Bunny’ growing to 16 inches in height is the smallest

of the pennisetums. ‘Dwarf Hamelin’ grows to 24 inches and is slightly more compact.

Chinese Silver Grasses (Miscanthus sinensis) are elegant upright grasses. These

ornamental grasses range in height from 4 ft. to over 10 ft; from plants with fine needle-

like leaves to specimens with wide arching blades. Maiden Grass (M.s. ‘gracillimus’/

‘graziella’) varieties produce large, free hanging, silver-white plumes protruding out high

above the foliage. This drought-tolerant plant is quick to establish itself and grows to

approximately 5.5 ft. Undine Miscanthus grows to 6.5 ft. and is known as the bigger

sister of ‘Graziella’, but with a remarkably light and elegant inflorescence. Silver

Feather Miscanthus produces pinkish blooms that develop to silver, reaching 6.5 ft. in

height. Two dwarf varieties, ‘Adagio’ and ‘Yakushima”, are attractive tufted erect

clumps, which show delightful pinkish-brown flower plumes.

The following native grasses are used often in landscape applications through the

Texas hill country. Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa) is a wonderful smaller native

ornamental grass that adds drama to any garden, especially when the blooming flower

heads attractively move in the wind. This plant forms tufts of pale green leaves, which

can roll up during drought conditions. The different Stipa varieties produce long, fine,

golden hue flower heads, which bloom in the spring and fall, however are more dramatic

in the spring. Gulf Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) also adds rose-colored,

feathery blooms to the garden. These native evergreen grasses grow to approximately

3ft. in height and are spectacular when used in native landscape themes. Big Muhly

(Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) is another glorious native grass which adds interest to any

landscape. This clumping blue-green grass producing a wheat-like feather bloom.

Information courtesy of: Gardening with Grasses-Michael King & Piet Oudolf

Timber Press, Inc.; Portland, Oregon-1998

Article submitted by: Joanne Thompson-Hall, M.A./South Texas Growers, Inc.

South Texas Growers Nursery is located at 22201 Hwy 46 W. in Bulverde. The nursery specializes in Texas native and adaptive plants. Hours are seasonal; call 830-989-9179 for more information.



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