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Do you like the look of ornamental grasses?


One of my favorite plants has the appearance of an ornamental grass, but isn’t.  



Bear grass (Nolina microcarpa) has lovely, evergreen foliage that mimics the look of grasses.  But, my favorite part are the curlicue ends of the leaves.


Aren’t they neat?

Like the other drought tolerant and beautiful plants that I profile, bear grass thrives in hot, dry locations with little attention.  Another bonus is that they easily handle 100+ temperatures in summer and can also survive winter temps down to -10 degrees F.

Want to learn more?  Check out my latest plant profile on Houzz.

Yesterday, in my latest “Landscape No-No” post, I asked you if you could figure out what was wrong with this landscape that I drove by earlier this summer.

I had some great guesses.  

Here are a few of my favorites…

“The grasses are planted too closely together.”

“There are too many similarly-shaped plants.”

AND

“The large Pine tree is too large for this landscape and planted too closely to the wall where its can fall or its roots can cause damage.”

Well, they are all great answers and are correct.  BUT, there is something else wrong with this landscape, which no one noticed.


Look closely at the two photos below…


Above, is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).  


It is a beautiful ornamental grass and is fine for this landscape.


BUT, notice the ornamental grass to the right with the cream-colored plumes.


Here is a closer view…


This grass is also called Fountain Grass, just without the ‘Purple’.


The problem with regular Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum), is that while attractive – it is considered an invasive plant in many areas including the southern half of the United States and Hawaii.


Native to Africa and the Middle East, it spreads easily and is overtaking areas of the desert, outcompeting the native plants and grasses.


The reason that it’s a problem here is that it was widely planted in the mid 20th century.  Unfortunately, that was before people knew it would become a problem.


In this landscape, the homeowners were probably thinking that they were planting the same type of grass as the Purple Fountain Grass (which is not invasive).


SO WHAT CAN BE DONE?


Well, removal is necessary and requires someone with a strong back to take it out.


A great alternative to Fountain Grass that looks even better is called ‘Gulf Muhly’ or ‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’).



It starts out green in spring and summer…



As fall approaches, burgundy-colored plumes begin to appear…



Once winter arrives, the plumes fade to an attractive wheat-color…


Maintenance is very easy – simply prune back to 6 inches in late winter/early spring.

**For more information on Fountain Grass, including on where it is found and how to manage it, click here.

I promise to show additional “Landscape No-No’s” and how to deal with them in the future.
Often, after I finish with a landscape consult, I drive through the neighborhood and capture examples of good and often bad landscaping.

I do this so that I can use these photos to help you to avoid mistakes in your own landscape.

So, what do you think is wrong with the landscape above?

Please leave your comments and I’ll give you the answer tomorrow….

I am so glad that September is finally here!


Oh, I realize that it is still hot, but if you look carefully, there are signs that summer is beginning to wane.  The days are becoming shorter and you can see lengthening shadows at days end.


Fall is a busy time in the garden if you live in the desert Southwest, because that is the best time to add new plants to the garden.


Are you wondering what to do in your garden this month?  Here is my latest garden article from Houzz.com

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What are your plans for the garden this month?


**There is still time to enter the giveaway for a fabulous book, “Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard”.


I’ll announce the winner tomorrow!




Okay, you were probably thinking that I meant the ‘other’ type of grass.  But the type of grass I am referring to cannot be smoked, (at least I don’t think it can).  ‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’), is a beautiful ornamental grass to include in your landscape.  It is low-maintenance, thrives almost anywhere and has stunning burgundy foliage in late summer and early fall.

 

USES:  This Texas native looks best when planted in groups of at least 3, but I think groups of 5 or 7 are better.  This ornamental grass grows to approximately 3 ft. High and wide.  However, when flowering, add 1 – 2 ft. to their total height.  They can be planted in full sun, areas with reflected heat and even in areas with partial shade.  

 
 

This ornamental grass is tolerant of most soils.  Regal Mist is a great choice for planting around pools, boulders and in front of walls.  I have planted them around golf courses, and many people would ask me, “What is that plant?  It is beautiful.”  It is evergreen in areas with mild winters, but it is hardy to -10 degrees F (Zone 6).  Frost will turn them light tan in color. 

 
Regal Mist when not in flower

MAINTENANCE:  You can hardly get more low-maintenance then this – prune back severely in the winter, almost to the ground, to remove old foliage and spent flowers.  I do not fertilize Regal Mist, and they look just great.  Although drought tolerant once established, supplemental water is necessary for them is needed for them to look their best and to flower.  Self-seeding is not usually a problem when they are irrigated with drip-irrigation.

 

So, for those of you who are frequently asking me for a beautiful, low-maintenance plant – this is it.  Include a few in your garden, and I promise you will have people asking you, “What is that beautiful grass?”