With the seemingly endless 90 degree days we’ve had recently in Knoxville, Tenn., you may have noticed a lot of plants looking sad as they wilt under the unbearable heat. When the lush, green foliage of early summer begins to droop, ornamental grasses find their time to shine. Here are three of my go-to ornamental grasses for my landscape designs in Knoxville and East Tennessee:
Grass No. 1: Little Bunny Fountain Grass
The first of my favorite grasses is Little Bunny Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’), which typically grows to be up to a foot both tall and wide. What’s nice about this variety is that in late summer into the fall, it boasts a lovely white bloom.
Grass No. 2: Muhly Grass
A true show stopper in the late summer and fall with it hazy pink or white hue, Pink or White Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is also one of my favorite grasses. In contrast to the Little Bunny Fountain Grass, Muhly will get a bit taller, reaching about three to four feet tall. For a white bloom, try the cultivar White Cloud, or go pink with Hairyawn or Regal Mist varieties.
Grass No. 3: Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass
Karl Foerster Grass — also known as Feather Reed Grass — (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) is another great choice for anyone looking for ornamental grass to incorporate into a landscape design in East Tennessee. This one will grow to be about two feet tall and wide, but its blooms can reach up to six feet tall. From a landscape design perspective, Feather Reed Grass is a wonderful option if you’re looking to soften or contrast plant material in an area that’s heavy with hard features such as retaining walls. It has a reddish-tan bloom that looks best in late spring but will persist through the fall. (To sneak a look in person, head to downtown Knoxville and pass behind the Courtyard by Marriott hotel where we snapped this photo!)
Things to Know About Ornamental Grasses
For best results, plan to plant ornamental grasses in the spring or early summer. Doing so in the heat of the summer won’t end well for you or the grass! Once established, most ornamental grasses (including my three favorite) hold up well to drought conditions so the long periods of no rain that we’re used to in an East Tennessee August and September make these a great choice.
Plant these grasses in partial or full sun and get a professional look by planting them in large groups. Grasses such as these can create beautiful movement within your landscaping as they blow in the summer breeze so consider creating sweeps of a single type of ornamental grass throughout your landscaping. To keep your ornamental grass looking great, it’s best to prune them in late winter or early spring rather than in the fall. This encourages new, green growth in the spring, which will not disappoint as summer begins.
For a few summer landscaping maintenance tips, check out this post. If you’re looking for help selecting the best plants for your yard, give us a shout and we can work up a landscape design that incorporates the best ornamental grasses for a year-round landscaping look that doesn’t wilt under this late summer heat. And call Carex Design Group’s owner and landscape architect Bob Graves at 865-765-5550 or fill out our contact form.