Fountain Grasses

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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It's little wonder that ornamental grasses have become so popular with home gardeners in recent years. Not only do they complement conventional beds of annuals and perennials, but they provide interesting form and texture on their own in the landscape. Whether a runner, like ribbon or blue lyme grass, or a clump growth grass, like maiden grass and golden oats, they tend to thrive where other plants fail, are low maintenance, and drought resistant.

Fountain grasses, genus Pennisetum, are especially attractive. Standing from three to six feet tall at maturity, these fast growers do well in any number of conditions. They are evergreens that produce flowers, grow quickly, and fade back in winter. Foliage is finely textured, changing from bright green in summer to golden brown in colder months. Seed heads are about eight inches long, shaped like a bottle brush, and soft to the touch.

Design Ideas for Fountain Grasses

Imagine a brick walkway leading from a back door to a shed, lined on either side with five-foot grasses swaying under maple trees, whispering in the breeze. Perhaps you have a swimming pool, or small pond, or fountain on your property. Many ornamental grasses thrive when their toes, so to speak, are wet.

You might favor a hideaway corner, with a hammock, a shade tree, and a rock garden of hostas and the graceful drape of fountain grass. Pennisetum grows in clumps, about as wide at maturity as it is tall. It's thus very well suited as a foundation or specimen planting, because it will not take over an area like the runner grasses. Fountain blooms, no matter what variety, are also marvelously suited to dried floral arrangements.

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