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Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
Mark Twain

Karl Foerster backlit. This will typically get 4-5 feet tall. I've seen 7 feet.

This group of grasses tend to do best in damp areas. Water them frequently during the growing season.

Flower last well into late fall, and can be used in dry arrangements. See examples near the end of this page.

Karl Foerster in bloom

Karl Foerster spring growth.

Karl Foerster as a row.


Tufted Hair Grass -- This is an Alberta native.

Mass planting of tufted hair grass.

Closer look at the seed heads

Autumn Red Maiden Hair Grass. It does NOT look like this in the summer.

Blackhawks Big Bluestem grass. This is another that is green in summer

Blue Gramma is an odd one. The blossoms/seed heads go off at an angle.

Blue Oat Grass. Except for size this guy looks a lot like Elijah Blue Fescue grass. Same shade of blue. But this guy gets 24-36" tall and Elijah only 8-10 inches tall

Eldorado is a varigated ribbon-like Feather Reed Grass.

Prairie Dropseed gets 12-24 inches tall. Orange seeds in fall. Drought tolerant. Flowers, seeds August to October.

Shenanddoah is one of the smaller switch grasses, getting just over a yard tall. (If you want larger, plant Heavy Metal or Northwind.) It's thing is this beautiful pink/purple tips in fall.

Heavy Metal has blue-grey leaves in the summer, and a narrow upright growth pattern. Flowers and seeds August through October.


Ornamental Grasses

You don't have to mow these...

At the request of a customer I looked into ornamental grasses. These are NOT your average lawn grass.

About flowers: Yes, grasses have flowers. Those fluffy things at the top of stems are flowers. They aren't showy like lilies or orchids because the pollen is moved around by wind, not bugs. On some the pollen is pink or purple and colours the the whole thing. On most it's kind of a yellow green. The seeds are often bigger than the flower, and can be more interesting.

Winter arrangements.

Seed heads and dried leaves can be cut for winter use. See pix at the bottom of the page. Seed heads should be harvested when the leaves just start to turn colour. This will keep seeds firmly attached. Leaves should be harvested when they reach their peak of colour. Reds and purples are short lived colours, and will bleach out to yellow or beige or silver in a few weeks of sun. Colours will last longer away from a sunny window.

Maintenance

Pruning

Best done in two stages. Clip in late fall about 10-12" tall. This will leave them tidy over winter. Only needed for appearance.

In spring as soon as the snow is gone, clip shorter, about 3 inches. This leaves room for the new grass to come, up, and allows the soil to warm faster giving you an early start.

Fertilize with a water soluble balanced (same numbers) fertilizer, once you see new growth. This will get the grass off to a good start, but will be used up before they get floppy.

One garden site suggests wrapping a heavy wire, or twine around the clump a few inches up, and another a foot higher. Use a fine tooth hand saw to cut off the entire clump. Carry bundle to compost heep and unbind.

Grass Containment.

While most ornamental grasses are clump forming and won't form a sod, you may want to keep them consistent in size by some form of containment. The easiest way to do this is to plant them in a pail or large nursery pot that you've taken the bottom out of, or drilled holes to open at least half of the bottom for drainage. This will keep your grass to a nice round shape.

The upper edge of the pot/pail should be a couple inches above the ground. You can put mulch chips or rocks flush with the top. Or leave it, and you have protection against string trimmers.

Inside the pot, the dirt level should be the same as the ground outside.

Dark colours last longer. Black pails last longest.

Splitting bunch grass

At some point you will notice that the centre of the clump is looking ratty, or the whole clump has a patchy look to it. It's time to split your grass.

If you contained it as above, this is easy:

Lift the pot out of the ground. If stubborn two people using straight edged shovels may be able to pry the rim out.

Have a tarp handy, and knock the grass out of the pot.

Divide into 4-5 inch clumps. If you used a big nursery container, cut a clump 1/2 to 2/3 the diameter of the nursery container.

Put the pot back in the ground and replant one clump with fresh dirt.

This is best done in late fall but before the ground freezes. You can to it in spring, but our ground tends to freeze deep, and the grass will start growing before all the frost is out of the ground. And you have way too many things to do in spring anyway.

Our grasses

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

Tufted Hair Grass

Once you've owned one, you will see this one everywhere in the parks and roadsides where they don't mow. It's native over much of Canada, and hardy to zone 1. Unlike most other grasses, the seeds are spread wide on individual stalks giving a soft fluffy appearance.

Autumn Red Maiden Hair Grass

Blackhawks Big Bluestem Grass

Elijah Blue Fescue Grass

This is a smaller grass than most on this page. 9-12" tall, 6-8" spread. Hardiness is confusing. Usually rated as zone 4, but my supplier is in Manitoba, and I have reports of it doing well in Saskatoon. My suspicion is that it does well if it gets covered in snow.

Blue Oat Grass Helictotrichon sempervirens

This plant looks like Blue Fescue on steroids. Leaves twice as wide and tall as blue fescue. Isn't quite as tidy looking.

Heavy Metal Switch Grass Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal'

This is a very sturdy grass, not flopping over even in heavy rains. (Or so the garden catalog claims...) Flowers have rose coloured pollen, and since this is most of what you see, the flower overall looks pink. Brush against it at the right time, and clouds of pink dust scatter. Probably convince your kids that this is fairy dust.

This is a warm season grass. It's slow to get started in spring This is a cultivar of a native species in North America.

Shenandoah Switch Grass Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'

Shenandoah is one of the smaller culivars of switchgrass, getting only about 3 feet tall according to some sources, 4 feet by others. Flowers are pink/purple in mid summer, and leaftips turn orange or burgundy or purple or wine red in mid to late summer depending on whose lies you believe. All agree on fading to amber in late fall. The grass is sturdy enough to withstand all but the heaviest snowfall claims one catalog.

Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans

This is a warm season grass native to the Tall Grass Prairie. Big seed heads that tower over the 3 foot tall leaves.

As of October 2020 this is what we're ordering.

We can get: * Prairie Dropseed, * "The Blues" Little Bluestem * Ribbon Grass * Northwind Switch Grass * Variagated Moor Grass * Little Miss Maiden Hair Grass * Varigated Feather Read Grass * Lighting Strike Feather Reed Grass * Eldorado Feather Reed Grass * Skinner's Golden Brome Grass (Potentially Invasive) * Blue Gramma Grass * Blond Ambition Blue Gramma * Variegated Bulbous Oat Grass * Rain Dance Big Bluestem Grass

The above are special order and must be ordered in multiples of 6.

Grass can make for nice winter arrangements.



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Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.