Monday, April 23, 2007

Ornamental and native grass in the habitat garden

I like growing distinct clumps of grass in with flowers. A tall straight panicum or feather reed looks great as a background for just about any blooms. A flowing fine textured grass like prairie dropseed looks good with plants that have a strong vertical shape. Low growing clumps of grass can be grown with mounds of flowers like coreopsis or plants that send the blooms up wispy stems like gaura or verbena.
Early in the year as the grass emerges bulbs and spring flowers have little visual competition.
As the weather heats up the still low clumps of grass grow slowly forming a groundcover around summer flowers giving a softened merging of color and shape that moves with the wind.
In late summer and fall the grass dominates the show both in mass and color.
A grass like little bluestem is at its best in color and form after a cold hard freeze. Snow clings to dark stiff seedheads and stems, blanketing the ground in crystaline white. Worth braving winters worst to admire up close.
There is a grass or sedge to suit any purpose ... dry shade ,wet shade, dry sun,wet sun, clayloam, sand , poor or rich soil. For woodland,shoreline,meadow and mountain there is a grassy texture to suit.

Grass provides food in the form of seeds for many birds ,forage for mammals and even host a few insects.
Grass also provides cover from predators and nesting sights for small mammals and ground birds.
The deep roots of many grass natives helps prevent erosion and allows rainfall and runoff to percolate the soil.

A few notes...

Sorghastrum nutans grows best in deep, well-drained floodplain soils but is highly tolerant of poorly to excessively well-drained soils, acid to alkaline conditions, and textures ranging from sand to clay.
Indian Grass was a major component of the tall grass vegetation which once dominated the prairies of the central and eastern United States.
Indiangrass is widespread growing in upland prairies, glades, and open woods from the eastern seaboard to North Dakota, south to Arizona and Old Mexico.

Prairie Dropseed/ Sporobulus heterolepsis

grow in full sun, dry to average soil.
occurs naturally in prairies, barrens, and limestone bluffs in the mid-continent, from Canada to Texas, infrequent eastward to New England.
Very thin, emerald green leaves form a dense arching tuft. Seed heads form in August and give off a distinct aroma. These graceful clumps turn yellow or deep orange in fall.
Provides food and cover for wildlife.
Combine Prairie Dropseed with Purple Poppy Mallow, Missouri Black-eyed Susan, Missouri Primrose, Purple Beardtongue, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, and Prairie Blazing Star.
Prairie Onion, Pale purple coneflower Liatris blazingstar.

Prairie dropseed


Panicum spp.
Habitats include black soil prairies, clay prairies, sand prairies, typical savannas and sandy savannas, open woodlands, rocky bluffs, sand dunes, marshes and sandy pannes, rocky banks of rivers, prairie restorations, areas along railroads and roadsides, and abandoned fields.
Because of its above-average tolerance of salt, this species can become the dominant grass along little-mowed roadsides where salt is applied during the winter.
Grow in partial to full sunlight, moist to mesic conditions, and deep fertile soil. However, this robust grass can tolerate practically any kind of soil and it will adapt to drier conditions

Schizachrium scoparium/Little bluestem
Provides nest sites, protective cover and food for birds.Drought tolerant; additional water or fertilizer is unnecessary.
Grow in full sun.
Grow in dry to average soil.
Tolerates heat and humidity easily.
Native Range,Prairies, fields, open woodlands and roadsides; New Brunswick to Alberta south to Arizona and Florida.

Chasmanthium latifolium - Wild Oats
Grows best in rich moist soil in shade or sun.
Occurs naturally in bottomland forests, mesic upland forests, valleys, and stream banks from the eastern U.S. west to Nebraska, Texas, and Mexico

Hair Grass - Deschampsia flexuosa.Wavy Hairgrass
This showy, fine-textured, evergreen grass is excellent in shady gardens or woodland settings. A cool season grower, wavy hairgrass forms a tight clump of narrow, wiry foliage.
In late spring, stems shoot up above the foliage and arch gracefully with frothy-looking flowers.
Clumping grasses like this provide nest sites and winter cover for quail and sparrows.
They also provide fall and winter seeds for a number of birds including cardinals, towhees, juncos and other sparrows, finches, goldfinches, redpolls and snow buntings.

Wildlife habitat design

Native Grass


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