GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show24
GardenSMART Newsletter Signup
Visit our Sponsors! encore azalea Dramm
Visit our Sponsors and win.
Past Shows:

Show #24

Today we visit Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Maggie Young is the resident horticulturist. Maggie was introduced to horticulture when in high school her swim coach talked her into taking some horticulture classes. Although not initially excited by the idea, once exposed she enjoyed the field and has continued on through high school, college and now professionally.

Maggie today, discusses Ornamental Grasses and colorful Trees. She feels in some cases these plants can be utilized in place of Annuals and Perennials. They provide year round interest and require less maintenance.

Ornamental Grasses may be green now but in the winter they often turn brown. Even so, at that point, they have an awesome texture and are low maintenance compared to flowers. Ornamental Grasses come in about every shape and size. They range from a foot tall to some as tall as 20 feet.

Pennisetum Alopecuroides, Modry is a special variety in that the seed heads, or flowers if you wish, are a dark color. "Penni" means feather and "setum" means bristle, a feathery bristle. It feels bristly, almost serrated along the stem. Maggie likes to clump these plants with other Ornamental Grasses. They are also great in small, even intimate spaces. The dark seed heads stand out, high above the bronze foliage. It ties in beautifully with other bronzed leafed plants.

Purple Fountain Grass is a tropical cousin in the Pennisetum family. It is an annual, it only lives one year. The tan flower heads are spectacular, the stunning purple foliage and veins of the plant are attractive as well. The spike of the flower is upright, yet droops a little. Maggie has planted it next to Blue African Basil, the contrast adds visual energy to the area. Try it with other plants with distinctive color, as well.

Ornamental grasses can be used as specimens, as accents even as ground covers. Ribbon Grass grows to about 12 inches tall and will cover a large area. It's thick and full and reasonably aggressive but doesn't seem to take over other plants. The variety, Picta is less invasive than other varieties. It has long marginal variegation on the edge. There are other varieties, some with pink accents.

Northern Sea Oats or River Oaks grows equally well in sun or shade. It is a great looking plant if you're looking for something very loose and informal. Maggie has used this plant in containers. It has arching branches and attractive seed heads. Where the seed heads drop, new plants will appear. In the winter it turns brown but stays upright. It can be used as a cut flower in dried arrangements.

Calamagrostis Acutafloria Stricta, Feather Reed Grass provides a strong vertical element in the landscape. The Stricta refers to the upright form. It is a very slender grass compared to other Ornamental Grasses. Maggie has used it as a specimen since everything surrounding it is low growing. This plant grows to 4-5 feet tall. It is an early bloomer, starting in early summer lasting through winter. The flower, or inflorescence, is a very attractive feature. This is a cool season grass, it withstands heat and heavy soil, however at the end of the season it will start to look ratty. It too can be used in dried arrangements.

Regardless of the type plants in your garden, water makes up the highest percentage of the weight of your plants. Efficient watering is critical to the success of plants. There are a number of ways to water plants. One is a trickle or drip irrigation system. This type system applies water directly to where the plant needs water, in fact this is the most efficient way to apply water to your garden. Another approach is an overhead system, using an overhead sprinkler. It is easy to determine how much water is being applied. Use a wide mouth can or jar to measure output. About 1 inch per week is considered normal. Measuring when using a drip system is more challenging. Generally one wants to saturate the soil about 6 inches deep after several hours of watering. It is a good idea not to over saturate the soil. It is usually best to water early in the day, if for no other reason, there will be less evaporation. The least efficient time of day is the middle of the day. However if you live in a particularly hot, arid area watering during the middle of the day may tend to cool your plants. Another thing to consider is a rain switch or moisture meter. It turns off your irrigation system in case it rains, checks on the moisture level in the soil and only turns on the system when the soil is adequately dry. Use the correct sprinkler in the correct place. Trees, shrubs, annuals and ground covers all like a different type sprinkler head. Using an automated system may mean using more water but can still be efficient.

Miscanthus, Sinensis Gracillimus is available in a variety of sizes and leaf colors. It is very fine textured and the leaf is very thin. The white midrib that goes down the middle tells one that it is a Miscanthus. It is serrated and can cut your skin, similar to Pompus Grass.

Maggie likes Silver Grass, Gracillimus because it blooms later than most of the grasses. Late fall is when one sees the florescence. Some take this plant to the ground at the first hint of frost. Maggie likes its' fall and winter interest and thinks it looks good even in snow. She cuts it to about 4-6 inches in February or early March and then lets it grow.

Miscanthus Sinensis, Cosmopolitan is a variegated variety. It has a strong, almost white edge along each leaf. It grows to 5-7 feet tall. And it looks good with bright reds and oranges. Unlike other finer textured grasses it tends to get weak even open, in the middle to late part of the season. It can be divided. Maggie prefers to divide Ornamental Grasses in the spring unlike other perennials which typically prefer the fall. To divide, take a shovel and chop it into hand size clumps.

Miscanthus Zebrinus, is known as Zebrinus because it has horizontal, yellow variegation on the leaves. It's appearance is striking up close. Maggie has used this plant as a hedge, trying to block an eating area from a golf course, cart path. It grows to about 7 feet tall and has interesting florescence. It is a good looking plant up close or from a distance.

Giant Miscanthus grows to 12-15 feet tall. Maggie is using this plant as a screen. The florescence is upright and tall, the stalk is strong. This plant looks good throughout fall and winter. The stem varies in color, its bronze color ties into other plants, anything with cream or purple.

Arundo Donax, Giant Reed Grass can grow to 20 feet tall. It can overwhelm a space and has a tendency to flop over. When that happens Maggie cuts off that part. It will send off new shoots which makes it look fuller. It is a great plant in wet areas, in fact if kept wet it is almost rampant in it's growth. To contain it one might want to place it next to concrete or something that will keep it from getting out of control.

Georgia this weeks visits with Katie Brown, a landscape designer. We focus today on the landscaping of a beautiful home on the coast and a silver, sea-side garden. In this garden the plants used are all salt tolerant. This is a new garden, thus not as full as it will be. Katie has used Lavender in the back, then Thistle and a silver-gray Sea Holly. This garden is very soothing. The grasses provide a wonderful texture and the heads move in the wind creating interest.

To start your own silver garden drainage is very important and needs to be addressed. Consider putting gravel or sand at the bottom of the bed. Any garden like this that receives too much water will result in plants that rot. Importantly, place plants together that need water and separate them from plants that have lesser or different watering needs. Gray plants do well in the sun and they do well in drought, too much water is the only thing that will do them in. Katie originally had provincial French beds full of Lavender. The owner objected because Lavender dies back in the winter, leaving beds with little interest and not much to see. Instead Blue Star Juniper was chosen because it is evergreen and provides interest in the winter. It creeps along and provides a nice contrast with the Lavender which is more upright. It doesn't get out of bounds and looks good with Barbary or burgundy.

There is a massive rock on this property. Katie could have treated it as a negative or a positive. She decided to accent it and played up its grays and browns and introduced plants that were rugged. She planted a huge section of Blue Lime Grass which is always blowing. There was an original Mugo Pine that adds texture. Sedums were added because their gray with burgundy edging blends well. She added Blue Atlas Cedars which are silver-gray. There is a lot of gray in this area but it works well and is absolutely beautiful. This garden is soothing, it has form and structure and it plays beautifully against the rest of the yard and garden.

Georgia thanks Katie for showing us this wonderful garden at this beautiful home in this stunning location.

Adding color to your garden is always a challenge. When needing color, we normally think of Annuals and Perennials, even shrubs but one shouldn't overlook trees. Trees are the most expensive, the most slow growing, the most dominant element in our landscape. Thus, it is very important that we select trees carefully. And trees are available that add color to the landscape.

The Dwarf Colorado Spruce can add some interesting color to our yards. Its' foliage is unusual and beautiful, the silver- blue is a very strong color. This is a neat plant, small, almost a shrub. The dwarf variety stays small and it has a mounding effect unlike the regular Colorado Spruce which is more pyramidal shaped. To keep them compact, if they start growing, cut the new growth at the candle and it will start branching outward. They like the soil a little on the dry side so Maggie has planted them in raised beds. It can tolerate some heat but it definitely thrives in cooler temperatures.

The regular Colorado Blue Spruce is a large specimen. It too needs well drained soil and also does better in cooler climates. It can grow to 50 feet tall. The new foliage is silvery-blue but the older foliage turns green. It is not a good idea to put this tree in your front yard unless your front yard is huge. It is just too big, it's pyramidal shaped and could divide the yard. If you have a lot of open space and a lot of room try this tree, otherwise explore other options.

Narrow Leafed Evergreens hold their leaves all year round. Arborvites and Fall Cypress are two of Maggies' favorite Evergreens. The Arborvite is tall and cylindrical and provides a lot of interest. Maggie is using it as a background tree for the other trees and plants. They make a strong vertical statement but be careful because they draw attention to themselves and away from other plants.

Golden Thread Cypress, Golden Thread, and Hinoki are all in the Fall Cypress family. One way to tell Fall Cypress from other plants is the white band on the back of the leaves. If present it is fairly certain to be a Fall Cypress. Maggie likes Fall Cypress because of its yellow tint. It breaks up the green from the Arborvite and the Hinoki. Their fine texture blends well and ties everything together. The Hinoki has a fan shaped leaf and a different habit.

At the base of these trees Maggie has planted Blue Mist or Caryopteris. When you have a lot of trees and there is an open space underneath them it is a good idea to plant something tough that covers the bare spots. The Blue Mist compliments the yellow in the Golden Thread Cypress. The Blue Mist blooms for a long time in summer, especially in late summer when it gets really hot. The blue is cooling and restful.

Maples come in a wide variety of plants and a wide variety of sizes, shapes and habits. The Japanese Maple is a good looking specimen plant. Weeping Lace Leaf Japanese Maple has very thin, very fine textured, delicate leaves. These trees are relatively expensive but can be easily found at garden centers. The tree we're viewing today is probably 20-30 years old and would sell for several thousand dollars. When selecting Japanese Maples consider size, the color of the foliage-they range from bronze, to purple, to red, there is even a dark green leaf-and think about form. They are Deciduous, so consider branch structure, because that is what you'll see in the winter. You might want to consider outdoor lighting, put it underneath for effect. Japanese Maples are beautiful plants, they command a lot of attention. Place them so everyone can enjoy their beauty.

Euonymus Alatus, Burning Bush is a small tree but because it grows so slowly many think it is a bush. It has corky growth, especially on new stems and it has horizontal branches. It provides interest in the late summer, early fall. They will grow to about 20 feet tall but they take forever to do that. Some limb it up, taking out the lower limbs, starting at an early stage, that will make it look like a tree. The most stunning characteristic of Burning Bush is its fall foliage, it turns absolutely bright red. There is a smaller variety called Compacta and it grows to only about 6 feet tall. An Evergreen is a great backdrop for Burning Bush, the green and red provide a wonderful contrast.

There are many great choices for plants and trees but there are some choices that may not be so wise. The Bradford Pear may not always be a wise choice. Although an attractive tree they don't have a strong central leader - all of the branches come from one point. Strong winds or snowstorms can cause the limbs to snap. It is a large tree and requires ample room to grow. On the plus side the Bradford Pear blooms early in the spring, before the leaves come out, with nice white flowers. In the fall it has beautiful red foliage. If a variety were developed with more horizontal branching or a stronger central leader it then would be a good choice, until then be wary.

Dr. Rick thanks Maggie for showing us these often over looked plants that require little maintenance and provide color in our landscape.

Grove Park Inn

Back to Top

GardenSMART Featured Article

Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

Lavender is the on-trend plant for gardeners this year. Click here for an article that details a top-tier selection of lavender that ensures success.

  Click here to sign up for our monthly NEWSLETTER packed with great articles and helpful tips for your home, garden and pets!  
Copyright © 1998-2012 GSPC. All Rights Reserved.