Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Ornamental Grasses

~ August 10, 2011

Ornamental grasses are great additions to any garden especially for those gardeners looking for some four-season appeal and winter privacy. These grasses are nothing like what’s on your front lawn. There are many types of ornamental grasses to choose from and they all come in a variety of textures and colours. Three of my favourite ornamental grasses are Purple Majesty Ornamental Millet, Bluestem and Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass.

Purple Majesty Ornamental Millet is a great choice for gardeners who want a different look. Unlike normal grasses, its foliage and bloom are a bold purple-black colour. This plant is best grown in full sun in wetter areas as it does not like to dry out between waterings and it can grow from 90-120cm high. Hardy to zone 5, this borderline perennial makes great cut flowers and attracts many butterflies. This plant looks best when grown among very colourful flowers as it provides a nice contrast.

Bluestem grass is another great option. It is a prairie native hardy to zone 3 and comes in two varieties, ‘Big Bluestem’ and ‘Little Bluestem’. Big bluestem can adapt to many different growing conditions and can grow from 1-3m high depending on the site. It prefers full sun but can handle light shade and likes moist fertile soil. As it grows it takes on more of a blue colour in its stems and makes a great four season privacy screen when planted on mass.

Little Bluestem is very similar to big bluestem except it only grows one meter tall. Its foliage starts gray-green, develops a light blue tint in the summer and turns reddish-purple in the fall after frost.

Both of these grasses are drought tolerant making them great selections for any location.

My final favourite ornamental grass is Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass. It prefers a sunnier location with moist to wet fertile soil but can grow equally well in dry sandy soil or clay. Hardy to zone 3 it grows between 1.5 to 2 meters tall. When planted on mass, in a bunch or in a row they make a great privacy screen. On a windy day they also look very appealing as the attractive green foliage sways in the wind. This grass flowers in June through July.

Give one or more of these plants a try in your yard. Make sure to plant on mass so they stand out and you will not be disappointed! Once established they require very little care besides cutting back in the spring. They are a great choice for any gardener.