Tall Grasses, Strange Things Going On

"Many species of ornamental grass offer interest in winter. They provide attractive plant form and many of them hold their seed heads through at least part of the winter. They include feather reed grass (Calamagrostis) and maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis). "

I don't have any tall grasses in my garden (yet), but I always thought one of the main reasons to grow them was BECAUSE of the winter interest they provide with their seed heads. Then WHY was the neighbor across the street and down a bit cutting down all the tall grass in his yard this weekend? He used electric hedge trimmers to cut it down to the ground, in its PRIME.

Then on the news the evening, they showed someone spray painting their tall grass seed heads white or light blue or some color. This guy said he just likes to paint his tall grass different colors, depending on his mood and the season. He said people stop and ask him all the time where he got his "unusual" tall grass.

I have no tall grass in my garden and since my neighbor cut his down, I can't sneak over and take a picture of his to put on this post, so it shall remain pictureless. The link to the video of the spray painting is kind of buried on the TV station web site, so I can't really provide a good link. (If you want to try to find it, do a search for "tall grass", then replay the weather forecast last modified on 10/09/06 at 07:08 PM, it's toward the end of that.)

I can't figure out why these people are treating their tall grasses this way. I've been thinking about adding some to my garden. Now that I have a chipper shredder, I could chop up the dried grass IN THE SPRING and make mulch of it. Having that shredder is kind of liberating. I also promise I would not paint the seed heads in the fall. Promise! Any recommendations on a good tall grass for zone 5?

By the way, the neighbors bagged all their grass up to send off with the trash.

People are indeed doing some strange things to their tall grasses around here.


  1. Such a shame to cut back tall grasses NOW I would agree!This time of year they are at their best!Your neighbor should begin blogging and get educated on how to care for plants!I have grasses that I planted but if I had it to do over I would had a section of the garden dedicated to a variety of grasses! I love the way they sway in the breezes watching their movement very relaxing.

  2. I don't have any tall ones right now, either, Carol.

    Does this classify as strange? I grew a couple of tall miscanthus varieties in IL, part of the front mixed borders. They'd gradually bleach out and look like straw, so I bungee corded them into sheaves, then tied on huge bows for the holidays. Tying them up seemed to keep them from disintegrating in the wind, snow and rain, and that way they didn't smother their neighbors.

    We put them through our shredder in early March.

    Miscanthus was popular back then, [Zebrina, Silberfeder, and gracillimus] but it's a decade since I planted grasses in IL. Calamagrostis is reputed to stand up better.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. I really like the zebra miscanthus, which you can find in a bunch of different places under a few different names. It's pretty upright, has reddish plumes before they "fluff out" to white, and the horizontal bands of yellow are interesting.

    There is also a miscanthus that turns to a reddish purple (with white plumes) in the fall... can't remember what it's called, but it's very pretty.

    One of my favorite taller grasses (so far) is a new one for me: sorghastrum nutens 'Sioux Blue'
    It's a native blue "Indian grass" with pretty foliage and rusty brown plumes. Mine was a baby from Bluestone Perennials last fall and is only about a foot tall (with 3 plumes up to 3+ft this summer) but I can't wait to see what it's like when it gets larger. Hardy to zone 4:

  4. I meant also to say that I've seen pictures of people spray painting their grasses and other seedheads (eryngiums and such) in magazines and books. I just can't get behind that, myself, though... it just seems wrong to indiscriminately spray icky paint in the garden on plants. Maybe if there was a natural dye that I could spray on them I would feel okay about it?


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