Grasses and the rock garden

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Kelaidis
Kelaidis's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03
Grasses and the rock garden

It's probably a sign of rock garden dotage, or some sort of disease but I'm getting into graminoids. When you mention rock gardens and grasses most of us groan at the invasion of some section of the rock garden by bluegrass or some other noxious pest. But alpine nature is full of grasses. My old Czech buddy, long gone now, Vaclav Plestil shared me love of grasses. I have been cautiously introducing quite a few grasses and graminoids into more and more of my rock garden and even troughs and the results have always been fun. This picture shows one of the greatest "accidents" I blogged about elsewhere (http://prairiebreak.blogspot.com/2010/06/best-design-is-accidental.html): as I have been sorting the pix I took this past year, I stumbled on another picture of this plant. I wonder if it would have photographed if I'd seen it with the sunbeam at its feet shining dead on! Wow! Oh well...I can try next year. This is Melica ciliata, probably apt to be a weed in the rock garden unless Serendipity intercedes and plants it in the perfect spot like here...

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Finally (!) someone else that likes Melica ciliata.  I have grown in for many years,, like it very much and can't give it away at our plant sales!  Of course it isn't "blooming" at the time of the sale, but I have even brought photos for encouragement to no avail.  I have to agree though, it does look rather weedy when it is just foliage, much like Side Oats gramma.  For me, it just "disappears" in the garden when not in "bloom."  Now I can tell members that Panayoti likes it!

Unlike the second pic here, the seed heads really are white.

1. Melica ciliata
2. Melica ciliata and Nigella hispanica

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

I like the Melica ciliata too!  I only have Melica altissima 'Atropurpurea', at present - a quite stiffly upright one that starts falling over after it blooms and has to be cut back.

This has been a wet summer, and though summers are cool here, it's been much cooler even than usual.  Still, it's most bizarre that grama is only blooming now!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Although I like some grasses I usually do not plant grasses in the garden except in the lawn! Some grasses are among the worst weeds here.
The last couple of years however, have I tried grasses like Cortaderia and Pennisetum species but they are not very hardy here - to wet in winter I suppose.

Bamboos are better! Even if I still weed out seedlings from "The great bamboo flowering year" about 10 years ago.

Hera are two of the bamboos I grow:
1) Fargesia muriale. This species flowered and selfsowed everywhere about 10 years ago. All the all plants died.
2) Sasa palmata

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

I thought I'd put a word in for one of my favorite native western clumping grasses. Achnatherum hymenoides (syn. Oryzopsis hymenoides, Stipa hymenoides) commonly Known as Indian ricegrass.
It adds a light refracting sparkle when in bloom. It will grow in the driest conditions imaginable. I have it seeding around my dry garden, moderately. If kept very dry It forms neat clumps about ten inches tall. If watered regularly they will grow substantially taller about eighteen to twenty inches tall.

From the High Desert Steppe
of the Great Basin and the Eastern
Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range
Located in Reno/Sparks,NV  zone 6-7
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sierrarainshadow/
John P Weiser

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I like Blue grama, and grow our native Minnesota form (Although, I don't know that it is any different than other areas.)  When I was in western Minnesota, I kept my eyes peeled for Hairy grama, with its protruding spike on the seed head, but never found it.

Trond, Fargesia nitida even tried to bloom in my cold climate that year.  It didn't have time to actually bloom, but it kicked the bucket anyway.  Fargesia rufa seems to be the best bamboo for my climate.  I have it growing in a few different places, including where I used to have Fargesia nitida, and it does much better.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I have always wondered about hardy and non-spreading bamboos, is Fargesia nitida a safe non-rampant spreader?  It looks most attractive.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I believe all Fargesia spp. are clump growing, and do not spread.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

I do grow some Fargesia species and they are "clumpers". When they bloomed some years ago they sprouted from seeds everywhere. The old plants died but I had more than I needed of seedlings.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Weintraub
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-24

I'm passionate about our native grasses, many of which would do well in rock gardens. Nassella tenuissima (Stipa tenuissima) is native to the southern part of New Mexico but is overused and weedy in the garden. I spent a few years eradicating it from my previous garden after planting it around a pond where it looked great until it started taking over.

Most people know about Bouteloua gracilis (see Lori's photo above), but most people aren't familiar with the other Boutelouas, nor with other taxa. Guess I'll have to photograph and identify them next spring and summer. One of my favorites is also native to my property, a tiny Muhlenbergia that requires one to get closer to really appreciate it. I think it's M. torreyi, but haven't keyed it out yet. It would look great in a trough with other dryland species. There are also non-weedy Sporoboluses, Andropogons, Poas, etc.

More when the world starts growing again.

Barbara Weintraub
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
6700 feet elevation - high and dry
nominally zone 5b; i think it's closer to 6a

cohan
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

Grasses--either natives, (which I can't in good conscience call weeds) or agricultural escapes-which I absolutely do call weeds-my definition being based on nativeness, not whether they are tasty to cows!-- are my most problematic invaders of garden space here :( Nonetheless, the right species in the right space, I find very attractive, and I would love to find some species that actually stay small
I also plan to do some experimenting with the numerous local Carex and allies, many of which are very beautiful in flower and/or seed..

I was pleased to realise that Foxtail Barley (first photo Hordeum jubatum), one of my favourites since childhood, is in fact native, and not an agricultural weed as it can seem; it ranges from 30 cm to a metre (don't think I have ever seen that) and I bet a really dry planting would keep it low and lovely (probably not too near anything precious and delicate....)..
also pictured, a couple of nameless ( to me) 'sedges' photographed on the same day in late July..

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

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