People tend to think that there’s not much to look at in the garden after the onset of winter. Perennials have turned brown or black and disappear back into the ground with the first hard freeze, and most shrubs and trees have gone into hibernation with the relinquishing of their leaves. But the show isn’t quite over yet. Evergreens like hollies remain, with their cheery red clusters of berries. And then there’s the grasses, that put on a sort of second act, as their foliage fades from the lush green of summer to golden hues for fall and winter.
Not too long ago I posted about some excellent native ornamental grasses; but to that list I’d like to add Andropogon (Big Bluestem), a tall, upright grass to 5′ that’s excellent for the back border of garden beds/plantings. Showy seed heads will persist on the stems into fall as the foliage turns from bluish-green to shades of yellow and tan. It does best in full sun in well drained soil but will tolerate partial shade.
Another favorite of mine is Chasmanthium latifolium, or Northern Sea Oats. One look at the showy oat-like flowers/seeds and you’ll see why it goes by that name. This grass is very adaptable to any situation, including consistently wet spots, as well as dry shade. It starts producing the flowers in summer, then the large “oat” seeds appear in fall as the foliage turns tan. An important note: this grass WILL reseed itself freely if you allow the seed heads to remain. So it is an excellent candidate where you want something to naturalize.