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