Standout Native Grasses

Panicum Cheyenne Sky

Panicum virgatum

This time of year, the garden is getting tired of the heat and lack of water.  However, there is one standout feature in many Cape Cod landscapes that is just about to come into its glory.  Ornamental grasses are resilient and tough and will begin to take center stage come August and September.  Their airy plumes and various shades of golden and burgundy fall foliage bring texture and feeling into any garden.

Panicum virgatum, aka Switchgrass, is a fantastic ornamental grass that once inhabited the prairies of North America. Since many of us are becoming more conscientious of our garden choices, we realize planting natives can be a huge benefit not only for pollinators and wildlife but also for the low-maintenance and low-environmental impact in our unique ecosystem.

This native grass has many features that can’t be beat.  It can tolerate a wide range of soil types from sandy to clay, dry and can even take occasional flooding.  If the soil is too rich, it may even flop! It preforms best in full sun, but can tolerate part shade as long as you can tolerate the more open growth habit.

Here are a few of the varieties we carry:

‘Northwind’ was the 2014 perennial plant of the year. This grass is a vigorous grower reaching a height of 4-5’ with a very strong vertical growth habit and will only grow 2-3 wide. The steel blue leaf blades are a great cool color to blend in the landscape, which later will turn a golden yellow. It has narrow plumes come fall that provide food for birds late into the season.
‘Northwind’ was the 2014 perennial plant of the year. This grass is a vigorous grower reaching a height of 4-5’ with a very strong vertical growth habit and will only grow 2-3 wide. The steel blue leaf blades are a great cool color to blend in the landscape, which later will turn a golden yellow. It has narrow plumes come fall that provide food for birds late into the season.
‘Heavy Metal’ is another variety with an incredible blue foliage and great columnar habit. Growing 4-5’ high but only 1-2’ wide, this is a great upright specimen. The foliage turns yellow in the fall and then fades to tan in the winter. The plumes are finely textures rising above the foliage with a pink tinge. These seed plumes persist well into winter and again provide food for wildlife and shelter for overwintering insects.
‘Heavy Metal’ is another variety with an incredible blue foliage and great columnar habit. Growing 4-5’ high but only 1-2’ wide, this is a great upright specimen. The foliage turns yellow in the fall and then fades to tan in the winter. The plumes are finely textures rising above the foliage with a pink tinge. These seed plumes persist well into winter and again provide food for wildlife and shelter for overwintering insects.
‘Cheyenne Sky’ forms a dense, upright clump reaching 3 feet tall with blue-green leaves that turn wine red in early summer. Purple flower panicles appear just above the foliage in late summer. This variety is great in containers as well as in the garden.
‘Cheyenne Sky’ forms a dense, upright clump reaching 3 feet tall with blue-green leaves that turn wine red in early summer. Purple flower panicles appear just above the foliage in late summer. This variety is great in containers as well as in the garden.
‘Shenandoah’ is the brightest red Panicum with a dark purple hue as the season turns cooler. Growing only to 2-3’ high, this is the smallest and neatest clump available with a spread of only 2’ wide. These also have a beautiful panicle in the fall that adds movement and texture to the landscape.
‘Shenandoah’ is the brightest red Panicum with a dark purple hue as the season turns cooler. These grow to 4′ with a spread of 2-3′. These also have a beautiful panicle in the fall that adds movement and texture to the landscape.

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