Sunday, October 12, 2008

Plants on Trial - The grasses

Instead of one measly defendent, I decided a whole catagory of plants would face The Elimination Round. I, the ring leader, will decide whether these plants will stay or be tossed by the roots into the compost (or a black plastic bag in the sun for the real offenders).

The Accused

Varigated Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra')
Pathetic grass - golden something?
Switch Grass 'Heavy Metal' (Panicum virgatum)
Varigated Maiden Hair 'Morning Light' (Miscanthus Sinesis)
Blue Oats (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Miscanthus 'Porcupine Grass' (Miscanthus sinesis 'Strictus')
Miscanthus 'Huron Sunrise' (Miscanthus sinesis)
Bottle Brush (Hystrix patula)
Blue Fescue 'Select' (Festuca glauca)
The Lawn

Huron Sunrise seedheads after flower colour has faded

The Game Show Court Proceedings

(The grasses sway together nervously looking like shaggy multi-hued green heads in various states of disarray.)

Ring Leader (me): Varigated Ribbon Grass. You came to my garden as a gift from another gardener but I should have known by the number of small pots of the stuff that you are rhizomous! Tell me do you plan on sending runners throughout the perennial bed?

Varigated Ribbon Grass: Me? Don't you think I'm pretty? Listen to my leaves rustle in the wind and in the spring, my shoots are an adorable pink. Love me.

Ring Leader: Yes, I do think you're pretty which is why ou have lasted 2 seasons but frankily you are outgrowing your spot. I've seen it happen in other gardens too. One season a foot square, the next 4, the next 12. It's just wrong!

Varigated Ribbon Grass: But... but...

Ring Leader: Are you edible? Are you native?

Varigated Ribbon Grass: Well, I.. No. Not really.

Ring Leader: It has also been said that you are a threat to native wetlands. You are out of here!

Varigated Ribbon Grass: Nooooo!

Ring Leader: And you Japanese Blood Grass also have runners, do you deny it?

Japanese Blood Grass: How could I deny it. Just remember that I am only borderline hardy. One poor snow cover year and I'm history. You can let me live on a little longer. Come on just one more year, you'll see how gorgeous I am.

Ring Leader: You are also an invader and rhizomous but it must be said that your runners run a little more slowly.

Japanese Blood Grass: Exactly. And you did buy me as a gift for your husband.

Miscanthus 'Porcupine Grass'

Ring Leader: I hate to admit that it is true. Fine, you can stay but I am transplanting you into a pot and I better find a good future spot or you're out of here too. And how about you Pathetic Grass whose name I have forgotten. What have you done but look dead? I know you are supposed to seem like a golden haze (perhaps that was your name) but I can barely see you in that spot and frankily I don't know why I've kept you so long. You're out of here too!

Unnamed Pathetic Golden Haze Grass: Sigh.

Ring Leader: Switch Grass 'Heavy Metal'. You're gorgeous.

Heavy Metal: I know.

Ring Leader: And clumping and native!

Heavy Metal: I know, I know.

Ring Leader: You grow so well and give structure to the garden. I love you. You can stay.

Heavy Metal: I know.

Varigated Maiden Hair: What about me?

Ring Leader: Well you do look nice with Heavy Metal and your growth is rather weak for a miscanthus. Fine, you can stay too.

Varigated Maiden Hair: Yes!

Ring Leader: Blue Oats. You are a cool season grass that comes up early in the spring making it look less dead unlike your warm season cousins. I like you. However, you aren't actually native.

Blue Oats: Shall I just pull up my roots now?

Ring Leader: Oh don't be dramatic - except of course for the affect of your foliage. You and the blue fescues lining the path can stay. Good little well behaved grasses that you are. Whose next... Oh Northern Sea Oats quit quivering... actually don't, it's quite pretty.

Northern Sea Oats: Thanks, I think.

Northern Sea Oats

Ring Leader: How could I get rid of you. You're seed heads are amoungst the most interesting of the ornamental grasses despite the fact that I note several babies at your base. You may be even be a native but I cannot find definitive evidence and your fall colour is pleasing. You can stay but keep that reproduction in check, deal.

Nothern Sea Oats: Suuurrre...

Ring Leader: This brings us to uh yes the other Miscanthus. I do believe that 'Huron Sunrise' and 'Porcupine Grass' are represented. I'm sure you know that you are also non-natives though both of you have your decorative uses, I'm afraid one of you will have to go. Who will it be.

Huron Sunrise hides beneath fluffy top.

Porcupine Grass tries to blend in with the sunflowers.

Ring Leader: Eeny meeny - sorry Huron, Porcupine is by far more interesting and I don't think I really like your fluffy seedheads. It's the curb for you.

Huron Sunrise: Noooo!

Ring Leader: Bottle Brush grass where are you?

Bottle Brush: Here! Here!

Ring Leader: Would you grow already? I heard that you can be a pest but I have barely seen anything of you for two seasons.

Bottle Brush: Well you grew morning glories all over me.

Ring Leader: True... that will be corrected for next year my beautiful native. You too can stay. And now for our final grass - The Lawn.

The Lawn: You can't get rid of me. I'm everywhere. Everyone loves me. What can compare with my durable, long season nature. All I ask is for my huge share of water and nitrogen. Oh and space. I like large amounts of space.

Ring Leader: You are difficult to get rid of but be forewarned. I have already disposed of 2/3 of you and more will be going.

The Lawn: This is an outrage. You can never entirely get rid of me. Never! You'll see. What about the children's soccer games? What about that lovely green swatch to show off your garden and what about my durability.

Ring Leader yawns: My work may not be done but it has begun.


Switch Grass heavy metal with varigated maiden hair miscanthus in front


You'll notice that keepers are all 3s and above except for Japanese Blood Grass that I am hanging on to mostly for sentimental reasons though it will be potted.

Varigated Ribbon Grass - 2
Japanese Blood Grass - 2
Pathetic grass - golden something? - 1
Switch Grass 'Heavy Metal' - 5
Varigated Maiden Hair (miscanthus)- 3
Blue Oats - 3
Northern Sea Oats - 4
Miscanthus 'Porcupine Grass' - 3
Miscanthus 'Huron Sunrise' - 2
Bottle Brush - 4
Blue Fescue - 3
The Lawn - 1



Other native grasses for this area, based on a list from the Wildlife Fletcher Garden and Acornus Restoration Nursery:

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
Side Oats Gamma (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Canadian Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis)
Sand Dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus)

More on Ontario Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

Ornamental Native Grasses


coriander said...

Nicely imagined! I have trouble clearing out the calendula, borage, and lambs quarters from the raised beds even though I want to grow food there. Sometimes I attempt to transplant the thinnings from my seed starts. The bamboo is the only thing I've destroyed outright besides the lawn and it took several years to work up the courage.

Shady Gardener said...

That was fun! My Japanese Blood Root is in a very confined space... between a bunch of rocks and the driveway. ;-) Thanks for the information about the grasses!