Tag Archives: karl foerster

The late August garden

The latest and greatest:

The signs of autumn are becoming less and less subtle. The Itea ‘Little Henry’ in the front are half green/half scarlet red. The Amsonia hubrichtii is revealing orange hues throughout. The Panicum in the upper left is now showing signs of its yellow fall color and even the blooms on Joe Pye Weed are transitioning to a richer and darker pink.

 

The blooms on Pennisetum ‘Desert Plains’ recently emerged in full force.

 

A smorgasbord of ornamental grass blooms. It’s tough to identify them all individually but included here are Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’, Karl Foerster grass and Indian Grass.

And now here they all are individually.

I took a few steps back for this picture of Indian Grass to show just how prolific it is as a focal point at the end of my driveway.

 

Red for days on Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’.

 

Those Karl Foerster blooms still soaking up the sun like champs.

 

Lobelia siphilitica (Cardinal flower) still popping up everywhere, including smack dab in the middle of this ornamental grass.

 

Have I mentioned Amsonia in every post so far this year? Here’s another one.

 

You know I attempted (key word here) to remove all of my Northern Sea Oats. While it continues to stick around, there’s no denying that it is stunning in the right light.

 

I’ll take the blush/pink faded blooms of this Hydrangea over the bright white blooms any day. Quintessential late summer color.

 

There are very few berries on Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’ that have been missed by the birds.

 

Boltonia in full bloom, fortunately being held up by the neighboring Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’.

 

 

Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed) while blooming, has been devoured by some critter so it’s a bit ugly right now. Yuck.

 

Butterfly chasing adventure of the week: Common Buckeye.

 

Plant combo of the week: Bee balm and ‘Karl Foerster’ grass

You knew it wouldn’t be long before I featured an ornamental grass in a “Plant Combo of the Week” post and you would be correct. This one is brutally simple with the two plants available at every garden center around.

I give you Monarda (Bee Balm) and Calamagrostis acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass) ‘Karl Foerster’.

This combo peeks in early summer when the Bee Balm is in full bloom and smelling deliciously minty and ‘Karl Foerster’ blooms have settled into their long lasting buff color.

Take a step back in my garden and you’ll see that I also have them matched up with Joe Pye Weed which blooms the latest of the three.

But we’ll keep it simple for now and keep Joe Pye Weed and my exquisite design skills out of it.

I’d love to tell you that I masterminded this pairing from the beginning but of course I didn’t. The Karl Foerster grasses have been in this location for years with the only upkeep being a quick trim to the ground in late winter. By that time, new signs of growth are already evident since Karl is a cool season grass.

I should add one more piece of maintenance. Every three years I divide these grasses and as a result, have a ton throughout my garden. It couldn’t be an easier task and the divided sections are so quick to establish, with the only requirement being supplemental watering if divided during a dry time.

The Karl Foerster grasses look great spring, summer and even into fall, when the blooms shine when back lit by the late afternoon sun.

The Bee Balm started as three tiny little plugs that I shoved in an open spot at the end of the gardening season and in three year’s time, they have exploded.

Are they invasive? I would say they are “aggressive spreaders” but I have no issue pulling those that jump out of bounds and planting the piece in another spot or gulp, tossing them into the compost pile.

In case you weren’t already aware, Bee Balm attracts visitors like mad and provides endless hours of entertainment and photo opportunities all summer.

 

 

 

Even after the blooms fully fade in late summer, they still look  great with their brown seed heads.

 

And all the way into winter.

Both plants thrive in my clay soil, don’t mind some wet feet from time to time and are 100% ignored by the deer and rabbits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The greatest grass, accepting chaos and a plea for container ideas

A few thoughts:

We’re always trying to piece a garden together that has visual interest all year long. Ideally, we’ll construct it where one perennial stops blooming and takes a step back, while another takes center stage. Continuous succession of bloom or emergence of interesting foliage or texture. That’s the game.

Below is one of those situations where I’ve managed to play it perfectly. The pink Astilbe blooms have had their day in the sun but are now fading and losing color just in time as the yellow coneflowers are emerging. Yellow and pink, not so great together and fortunately, the world will not have to bear witness to it.

coneflower astilbe

 

I’m really starting to buy into the ornamental grass as deer-loving-plant-protector. This hydrangea bloom is proof. Now the challenge is how to design an ornamental grass moat and make it look pleasant and natural.

hydrangea

 

You can only say it so many times before the message is lost on people. So here is my last plea for you to find a way to get Panicum ‘Northwind’ into your garden. Even if you have a smaller garden, please add one and thank me later. What a handsome and massively upright specimen (how I’m often described as well).

northwind

 

Do not underestimate the “see through-ness”of certain grasses like this ‘Karl Foerster’.

karl foerster

 

While you are adding a Panicum ‘Northwind’ to your cart (virtual or metal) also throw in Amsonia. They play nice together.

amsonia and panicum

 

Nothing has reseeded more in my garden than Mountain Mint. It pops up everywhere in spring and even with my OCD tendencies, I’m able to let it do whatever the hell it wants. My therapist calls that incremental progress.

amsonia mountain mint

 

Bee Balm, friend or foe? Discuss.

bee balm

 

I’ve been trying to up my container planting game for a few years now and I’m still not happy with my progress. I have learned to experiment more and stuff each container to capacity but I still need work. I’d love your feedback on this one. It seems to be thriving in its shady location. Be gentle but be honest.

container persian

QOTD – What is your go-to container planting combo? I have no shame in stealing all of your brilliant ideas.

Top ten ornamental grasses

My garden is dominated by ornamental grasses. It started out of necessity as they could handle the poor draining clay soil, all day sun, harsh wintry conditions and were completely ignored by the deer. But is has since evolved into me simply loving the hell out of them as witnessed by my numerous posts on the topic. They are the backbone of my garden.

A friend recently asked me “Which grasses should I plant this spring?” and I told him I’ll do you one better, I’ll dedicate an entire post to my personal favorites. A handy little guide for those who are just entering the OG world or are looking to add a few to their existing collection. My recommendations are solely based on grasses that have resided in my own garden as I’ve had the time to watch them mature and adapt over the years. There are definitely others I’ve seen in other gardens that I would recommend as well, but until I have a personal experience with them, I cannot comment.

I’ve dedicated posts to many of these individual grasses, so simply click on the name of the grass to read in greater detail. I’ve also included a few quick tidbits below about each grass.

Here are my top ten ornamental grasses (in no particular order):

 

Panicum ‘Northwind’Top ten ornamental grasses

  • Grass remains completely upright all year long.
  • Reached full size (5′-6′) within three years after planting a tiny plug.
  • Underrated yellow fall color.

 

 

 

 

Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’Top ten ornamental grasses

  • First grass I ever planted.
  • My favorite fall “red”of all the Panicums
  • I’ve divided this grass numerous times with ease.

 

 

Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’Top ten ornamental grasses

  • The biggest head turner in Fall with its foliage color of red/green/orange.
  • The silver blooms are a nice contrast.
  • Looks fantastic with fall perennials (Dwarf sneezeweed in the photo)

 

Sorghastrum ‘Sioux Blue’indian panicum sage

  • This towering native grass (middle of pic) reaches 7 feet when in bloom.
  • Took 2-3 years to establish, but now upright and stays that way through winter.
  • Individual blooms are interesting when viewed up close.

 

Pennisetum ‘Desert Plains’desert pennisetum

  • Only two years in with this one and it has already established itself well.
  • Great late summer/fall foliage color.
  • Tons of blooms starting in summer and they still look good into the winter.

 

Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’grass

  • Reliable performer year after year. 9 years in for me.
  • Doesn’t hold up as well in winter as the other grasses.
  • A bit weedy like most Miscanthus.

 

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’og5

  • Yes, you can find them everywhere, but there is a reason for that. Care free and upright and buff blooms all summer and into fall.
  • I like to squeeze one in between perennials as a great contrast in texture and color.
  • I divide all the time with ease and nothing but success.

 

Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem) ‘Blue Heaven’k12

  • Great blue color in spring and then shades of pink and red in late summer.
  • Has handled early morning shade without issue.
  • Two years in with this one and I’m in love with it. Holds up all season including in winter.

 

 

 

Molinia ‘Skyracer’molinia

  • A slow to establish cool season grass but worth the wait. This one is all about the blooms as they get 4′ to 5′ tall and look killer at the back of a border.
  • Does not hold up in winter as the blooms break off.
  • Just planted ‘Cordoba’ for the first time which is allegedly even better than ‘Skyracer’.

 

Andropogon ‘Red October’andro

  • Another newcomer for me as we’re three years in. About 3′ to 4′ in height but should reach 6′ to 7′.
  • The foliage color is off the charts already. Red hues even in spring and then dark red in fall.
  • Seems slower to establish but it will be worth the wait. Only a few blooms to date.

 

And a few bonus “non-recommendations”:

Calamagrostis ‘El Dorado’ 030

  • The picture to the right is this cool season grass at its peak. Short lived though as it becomes nondescript the rest of the year.
  • Nowhere near as solid as ‘Karl Foerster’

 

 

 

 

Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’107

  • Maybe TBD is a better description. Nothing bad, just not as exciting as other switch grasses to date.
  • I haven’t seen much of a blue hue so far, just a drab green.

 

 

Northern Sea Oatssea oats fall

  • Just read this and you’ll understand why I gave up on it.

 

 

Dividing Karl Foerster Grass

UPDATE 8/24/17: I am writing this 3+ years after the original post. Just wanted to let you all know that the divisions are thriving and you can see how they look now by clicking here.

Thanks,

John

 

I am still in the process of recovering from all of the plants that were lost over this past harsh winter; specifically trying to replace said plants. I have purchased some new shrubs and moved some other plants around to fill the voids. It’s a pain in the ass but I love it. The challenge of pulling it all together keeps me going at 200 mph day and night.

Now we all know that plants are not particularly cheap these days. So one of the ways I significantly cut down on those costs is by dividing my existing plants. With a little bit of elbow grease, one plant becomes three or four new plants.

Recently, I identified a few open spots in my front bed that could accommodate relatively narrow plants with a decent bit of height. The exposure is about half sun/half shade. I consulted the plant inventory in my brain and had the perfect option within seconds … ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass.

I have had a bunch of these in the same location for four years now and they have never let me down. They look good as early as April (they are cool season grasses so start emerging pretty quickly in the spring) and hold up all through summer, fall and even winter:

It was dividing Karl Foerster grass time . I had yet to divide them but knew it would be an easy task.

So out came the shit kicking boots and I was ready to do the deed:

The grasses have shown signs of life the past week so I knew now was a good time to divide them before they grew out any more and became less manageable:

I decided to dig out one completely from the ground and placed it in the lawn. It couldn’t have been easier to dig it out:

With a few quick and strong daggers into the grass with my shovel, one easily became four. Dividing Karl Foerster grass is fun!:

One of the divisions went right back into the same hole:

And another filled in a bare spot between this Boxwood and Ninebark:

I eventually settled on adding all three of the divisions into the same garden bed for some repetition and nice contrast with their surrounding plant brethren. Dividing Karl Foerster grass is like super fun yo:

The entire task took no more than twenty minutes and very little physical labor. I immediately watered all of the divisions and it was a wrap. Dividing Karl Foerster grass is easy and way way super fun.

Next time you are looking to fill in some bare spots in your own garden, think about dividing some of what you already have. It couldn’t be easier as witnessed by my stellar dividing Karl Foerster grass process above.

Some ornamental grass reviews

Let’s talk ornamental grasses today, shall we?

Good, glad you are game. Onward.

By far the most consistent ornamental grass for me in terms of size, shape, bloom and winter non toppling over-ness, Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ is again kicking some serious booty, even in July:

You are looking at the best part of Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass) ‘El Dorado’:

But upon closer inspection, not all that great:

I have a bunch of these located all over the property and really none of them are impressing. The best looking one is in half shade so maybe that is the answer. More to come.

I know they are everywhere and similar to ‘El Dorado’ in terms of being rather “blah” (snobby horticultural term in case you haven’t heard it before) but I still like looking at the blooms on my ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed Grasses from my deck, especially when backlit by the sun in late afternoon: 

Another grass I’ve soured on of late is Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’. The overall shape is weak and the bloom count has been small the past two years or so:

Maybe it is time to divide and that will improve things. Sounds like a nice Fall task to me. 
You’ve heard me discuss it numerous times in the past, but I’ll say it again – Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ really kicks ass. The one that I divided this Spring is already blooming:

And another division from two years ago keeps on keeping on:

Still loving Purple Fountain Grass in containers, especially now that the ladies are blooming: 

Aren’t you two beauties (AKA Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’) holding up wonderfully:

And finally, you are looking at my new favorite resting place, now adorned with two Blue Dune Lyme Grass in containers:

There are plenty other grasses to review but we will give those some time to develop a bit further this Summer.
Hope you enjoyed. 
John