Western Mountains and High Plains

November, 2004
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Ornamental Grasses
In the garden we're only just beginning to realize the beauty of our native grasses. More common on our palettes are the towering giants, such as plume grass (Erianthus ravennae) and several varieties of maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis). Plume grass has coarse blades with a white midrib. In late summer and early fall, flower spikes begin their ascent to 8 feet or more. By September the plumes are in full glory. The inflorescenses are a rich beige and reminiscent of its less hardy cousin, pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana).

In the maiden grass family one of my favorites is Miscanthus sinensis 'Silver Feather'. This variety has leaves all the way up the 8-foot stems, resembling corn stalks with feathery white "dusters" on top. The foliage is a glowing gold in autumn.

Another striking maiden grass is Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'. Horizontal yellow bands on the 6-foot-high foliage make a nice contrast and add interest.

Clever Gardening Technique

Insulate Outdoor Pots For Overwintering
If you are planning to overwinter perennials outdoors in containers, take into consideration the vulnerability of the root system to extreme cold temperatures. Unlike perennials planted in the ground, potted plants are more likely to succumb if the winter is severe.

Before planting perennials in pots, line the sides of the containers with sheets of bubble wrap to help protect the roots from freezing over the winter. This also will help maintain moisture in the root zone. Don't cover the drainage hole, however, since you will still need to do some winter watering during prolonged dry spells.

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