05 May Ornamental Grasses
What are the characteristics of the perfect landscape plant here in Cape May County, NJ? Well, let’s see. It has to be low maintenance, not need watering, and announce it’s presence with a flashy display. That sounds to me like an ornamental grass. They make a great border, barrier row, or stand-alone plant.
We have over two dozen ornamental grasses on our property, ranging from popular pampas grass to rarer elephant grass and zebra grass. Each grass has its own unique look, whether it’s striped leaves, wide or narrow leaves, offered in a panorama of sizes and colors. They can grow from 3′ to 15′ tall. The colors can run from green to gold to burgundy, steely blue or even white.
The plumes, which come on in late summer, are actually seed heads. Again, they come in a variety of shape and sizes. The best part is how they sway in the wind, adding a rhythmic beat that brings your landscape alive.
In the late fall after they become dormant, it is best to cut off your ornamental grasses a couple inches above ground level. You can leave them up all winter – as we have in the past – but be prepared to be cleaning up plumes and decaying grasses after every storm or windy day. That does get monotonous and we now cut them around Thanksgiving. If you do leave them to enjoy all winter, be sure to trim them back before March 1 so as not to interfere with the new spring growth.