Tag Archives: panicum rots

Plant spreadsheet

September is all about inventory or time to update the plant spreadsheet at “Le Jardin du Markowski”.

I pray to God I got that right or my father, a former high school French teacher, will disown me. I took a few years of French in high school myself, but never grasped the language. I could, however, pull off some sick mash-ups of Franglais, like “You’re full of merde” or “Let’s go jouer some baseball”. That and I remember that the French used an alternative to “It’s raining cats and dogs”. They would say, and I’m paraphrasing here, “La vache qui pisse” meaning it is raining like the cow pisses. Score one for higher education.

My inventory process is rather simple.

I walk the garden with printed plant spreadsheet in hand and check off those plants still with us and take counts of all those same plants. Anything not checked is eventually moved to the “Dead” tab in case it needs to be referenced in the future. Any plants that have been added to the garden since the last update are scribbled on to the hard copy of the plant spreadsheet. Later on, plant tags are referenced to ensure the appropriate cultivar name have been included with my new additions.

This is necessary, why? I’ll tell you why:

  1. It is an excuse to carry a clipboard which is always cool.
  2. My neighbors look on confused and that is always fun.
  3. In winter, I like nothing more than to refine my plant spreadsheet as a means of keeping the garden in the conversation.
  4. In winter, I like nothing more than to further educate myself on a plant’s longevity, ease of division and potential partner plants.
  5. My therapist says it gives me a feeling of control and that apparently is considered progress.
  6. Some day, when I’m good and ready, I’ll reveal the plant spreadsheet to the world and it will go viral and I’ll make like tons of money.
  7. I have documentation for the next owners of our home should they not tear it all down in fear of what goes into the upkeep.

And no, I’m not ready to reveal this cornucopia of plant knowledge so you’ll have to just imagine what it looks like.

Actually I’ll give you one little nugget as a teaser. After completing the inventory earlier today it was determined that I have 13 Panicum ‘Rotstrahbusch’ grasses. All are thriving and all originated from plants I bought from Bluestone Perennials in 2006. Come to think of it, I could put out a plant version of Ancestry.com for my own garden and it would be killer.

A thought for another day.

I love me some ‘Rots’ and so does my camera. Here are some pics I took of the “Rots” in various poses and I hope you enjoy them all.

These are numbers 4-6 in terms of their age.

rots-grass

 

Wispy comes to mind.

rots-grass-2

 

Great backdrop for perennials all the way into the Fall.

rots-coneflower-spent

 

Intertwined with Boltonia.

rots-boltonia-variegatus

 

Hanging with other grasses including Sorghastrum and Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’.

rots-variegatus-boltonia

 

There is almost always one within earshot of the camera.

grasses

 

As seen through the eyes of Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ blooms.

grass-blooms-3

QOTD: Do you really have any interest in my spreadsheet?

 

Grasses, transitions and a new destroyer of plants

A tour around my garden:

Ornamental grasses are the dominant feature right now as they round into their peak form. So why don’t we start there.

I’m sure you are well aware of my affinity for Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ by now but if not, here is some visible propaganda.

rots

 

rots 2

 

More Panicum love here as well.

driveway bed

 

Not only do the grasses put a smile on my face but they also serve a very tangible purpose. Here they are protecting the tomatoes from the deer and doing a bang up job I must say.

tomatoes grasses

 

‘Karl Foerster’, kicking ass in John’s garden since ’07.

karl

 

A recent addition to the grass collection, Pennisetum ‘Burgundy Bunny’ has phenomenal color right now. I am going to liberally add these wherever I can find the space for them. Love.

burgundy bunny 2

 

Soghastrum (Indian Grass) has announced its presence in a big way of late but I’ll hold off on photos until they are just right. By just right, I mean when all of the blooms have arrived. For now, here is a taste of one of those blooms. Love.

indian grass bloom

 

Speaking of blooms on the grasses. Here is one of the Andropogon (Big Bluestem) ‘Red October’ blooms. I now get why this grass is often referred to as Turkey Foot.

andropogon flower

 

Yes, there are plants other than ornamental grasses that tickle my fancy right now and some of these newly emerged this week. Like seen here with the first blooms of Chelone lyonii. This plant truly loves my often waterlogged soil and for that I am indebted for life.

chelone

 

This Boltonia bloom could be heard yelling “first” this morning.

boltonia

 

Sedum ‘Matrona’ is playing nicely with Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ and my little hide-it-from-the-deer-game is still going strong.

sedum veronica

 

Transition of seasons. It is coming.

Look at what we have here. The seedheads of Baptisia are slowly opening and that makes me think winter is around the corner and that makes me cold which in turn makes me both mad and sad.

baptisia seedhead

 

Speaking of a transitional period, I just noticed this week that the stems on the Redtwig Dogwood are well, red and that also is freaking me out a bit. I love the red stems in winter and it is welcome winter interest, but for god’s sake, not yet.

redtwig

 

This Rhamnus (Buckthorn) ‘Fine Line’ was inundated with Japanese beetles just a few weeks ago and looked nasty. Now I know how resilient and tough she is and that will be noted on the trusty plant spreadsheet.

rhamnus

 

This spring I ordered a massive quantity of small plugs of Packer Aurea (Golden Ragwort) from Izel Native Plants and while they all initially struggled with the heat and the humidity, they have all bounced back like a champ. I love the foliage. And I’m banking on mass blooms in early spring next year and post bloom, I plan on it being the plant to hide the ugly legs of others like Bee Balm and Sneezeweed.

ragwort

 

I cannot for the life of me successfully grow Cimicifuga (Bugbane). It is official now. I’ve tried in full shade, mostly shade, partial shade and full sun. I’ve left alone for years and remained patient with no success. I’ve kept them consistently moist and no dice. It may be time to move on.

cimici 3

 

cimici 2

 

cimici

 

One last one before I go. I spotted this bloom of Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ just laying in my front lawn this morning and thought it curious since it wasn’t actually eaten by the deer.

hydrangea

Upon closer inspection, there were Bee Balm plants knocked to the ground near it as well.

Upon closer inspection this was not the act of deer or any other animal.

Upon closer inspection, a certain 14 year old boy seemed awfully nervous around me this morning.

Upon closer inspection, said 14 y/o boy likes to hit a baseball across the front lawn and this area happens to be right in the way.

QOTD: How should I appropriately handle this situation?

The August Garden

As we hit the midpoint of August and slog through the dog days of summer, I realize that the plants in my garden can be broken down into three different categories:

Fading

Still going strong

Ready to take center stage

I guess these same categories exist throughout all of the gardening “seasons”, but it seems to be at an extreme right now.

And the garden, shocker, reflects life itself. Allow me to pontificate.

With the heat and humidity at what feels like an all time high (I’ll still take it over winter) I some times find myself caving and giving in to the joys of air conditioning. Likewise, so many plants have succumbed to the conditions and have thrown in the towel. No more fighting for that last new bloom or trying to keep up the facade of clean looking foliage. Uncle.

At the same time, there are those plants in my garden that say “f you” to these conditions and keep kicking ass. Not too unlike a certain gardener I know who can’t get enough of the stinging sweat in his eyes, the burning in the calves and easily runs through three t-shirts a day. A gardener who accepts the chuckles from his neighbors and keeps pulling weeds like it was hot yoga.

And then there are those plants who sense the cooler weather is coming and are ramping up for a big time display. There are subtle signs from some and not so subtle signs from others. You can feel their excitement, their turn to take the lead in the play. Fall is their time and they f’n know it. Hopefully my kids feel that same type of energy and excitement as they soon head off to high school and 5th grade. Because all kids feel that way,right?

FADING

No plants better represent the concept of fading than the coneflower. Phenomenal in peak bloom but in my humble opinion, still killer as the pink and yellow and white washes out, turns black and eventually becomes all cone.

coneflower spent

 

white coneflower

 

astilbe coneflower spent

 

Almost all of the Bee Balm blooms are in full fade mode yet still have a presence. That is if you take them in from a distance and ignore the slow takeover of powdery mildew.

bee balm and joe pye

 

Fading Agastache still pulls in the bees and who wants to get in the way of that?

spent agastache

 

STILL GOING STRONG

The dwarf Sneezeweed (‘Mariachi’ series) are still blooming strong and the deer have no interest.

red dwarf sneezeweed

 

orange dwarf sneezeweed

Providing a nice contrast in form and color with the emerging ornamental grasses.

planter bed

 

If it takes surrounding hydrangea by grasses and other deer despising plants, so be it. It has worked and this hydrangea continues to thrive even with the extreme heat of the past few weeks.

hydrangea

 

Veronica ‘Royal Candles’, one of the few plants I cut back religiously, always provides multiple rebloom periods. These were cut back only two weeks ago.

veronica prune

 

veronica sedum bee balm

 

Of course it isn’t all about the flowers and one of my favorite foliage plants right now is Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’. It brightens up one of the few shaded areas in my garden and holds up all spring/summer.

diervilla

 

I have tried for years to find a blue evergreen that would be ignored by the deer and say “no problem” to my clay soil that can sometimes be a bit waterlogged. Some how, Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’ has been the one to take the crown and three years in I am beyond thrilled. Upright, untouched by the deer and very little winter damage has made it a winner.

juniper wichita

 

READY TO TAKE CENTER STAGE

The first signs of bloom on the Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ appeared this week, which is always a reminder that September is fast approaching.

sedum pink

 

Boltonia blooms aplenty are here with plenty more to come. Of course once all blooms are present it will lean over and not be as fun to look at but I’ll be sure to never show you that photo.

boltonia

 

Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ or Hardy Ageratum (but not really an Ageratum) finally survived the winter for me after two previous attempts. It seems to have reseeded more than it actually survived but who can complain. I love the late season color. A fun one to photograph in fall.

eup wayside

 

BONUS – Ornamental Grasses

I kind of like ornamental grasses in case you are new here. You’ve been warned.

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ in full bloom as of this week.

pennisetum

 

penn and joe pye

 

First signs of blooms on Panicum ‘Northwind’.

panicum and joe pye

 

Same goes for Miscanthus ‘purpurascens’ or Flame Grass.

panicum miscanthus blooms

 

Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ and their airy blooms.

panicum rots

 

I “attempted” to rid my garden of all Northern Sea Oats and while there is still a ways to go, I’ve made major progress. Having said that, I can’t deny these NSO that have grown right through an Itea shrub look kind of awesome. Oh well.

sea oats

QOTD: Do you like this time of year in your garden? Why or why not?

 

Panicum Rotstrahlbusch

The very first ornamental grass I ever planted was a Panicum Rotstrahlbusch.
panicum rotstrahlbusch

I ordered these through an on-line catalog and they were about six inches high at that time. However, it didn’t take long for them to reach their mature size (about two years). And what beauties they are. Some quick facts:

  • It is a “warm season” grass so new growth doesn’t emerge until the weather warms up in Spring.
  • Survives winters as far north as zone 3.
  • Mature size is about five feet tall by three feet wide.
  • Prefers full sun and a consistently moist soil.
  • Should be cut down in early spring right before the new growth emerges (definitely use a hedge trimmer).
  • Pink wispy blooms emerge in July (will show you some shots of the blooms in a bit) and last until the middle of autumn.
  • Has tremendous burgundy color in the autumn (although the burgundy color starts to emerge as early as July).

Years ago, I successfully divided this grass by simply digging out three sections with a sharp spade; I never removed the grass from the ground. From there, one mature Panicum Rotstrahlbusch turned into three new grasses as seen in the photo below.

 

And only a few years later they looked like this.

aug

 

The Panicum Rotstrahlbusch blooms are fantastic come mid summer.

j1

 

And I have found that this grass mixes well with other shrubs and perennials in your typical mixed border. I have them located all over my garden and they work everywhere.

h13

e

 

These grasses are typically not found at your garden center but can be purchased online at a number of ornamental grass vendors. Trust me, even if you purchase them small you will see almost immediate results within that first year.

Or, if you are nice enough, I may send you a cutting through the mail because as you know, I am a man of the people.

 

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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.

 

 

Through the Seasons

Each season has its own unique beauty in the garden and dammit, that is why I love this gardening thing so much. It is never dull and in constant motion in a wonderfully subtle way.

With that theme in mind, there are some photo sets below depicting the same section of garden at different times this year. The first photo in each set is from current day. The subsequent photos then move backwards in time throughout the 2014 gardening season.

Enjoy.

Eupatorium maculatum (Joe Pye Weed) in front of Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’:

after7

joe pye

grass

joe pye and miscanthus

winter10

 

Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’, Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’, Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass) and Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’:

after10

garden

garden4

full5

vib whites

 

Panicum ‘Rots’, Viburnum bracteatum ‘Emerald Lustre’, Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’:

after

grasses fall color

garden2

grasses

yard

ornamental grass snow

 

Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’, Purple coneflower, Perovskia (Russian Sage):

after4

garden7

 

Similar plants as listed above but from a different angle:

after3

garden8

 

Barberry, Iris versicolor, Clethra ‘Hummingbird’, Monarda (Bee Balm), etc.:

after6

garden2

garden

full2

 

A little bit of everything:

after2

garden

garden

 

Looking through Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’ to the aforementioned Joe Pye Weed/Miscanthus combo:

after11

garden

winter20

Autumn delivers

Last week I declared that “Fall sucks”. Yes, I proudly own that declaration, yet at the same time, understand the influx of hate mail I received as a result. You don’t “f” with the autumn with certain people. They are a united and angry lot.

But here’s the thing, I don’t dislike the Fall as much as I miss the sweaty tasks associated with Spring and Summer. In fact, I have come to realize I have an unhealthy love of sweating and blister development- who else wants to join me in #gardeningsadomasochism.

Having said that, I can still enjoy what Fall has to offer, even if the thought of winter approaching makes me physically ill.

How good does Panicum ‘Northwind’ look right now?

panicum northwind fall color

panicum northwind fall color2

And Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ as well.

panicum rots

grasses fall color

Sorghastrum ‘Sioux Blue’ looks divine through the railing on my deck.

sorgahstrum fall

And lordy how I love Helenium (Sneezeweed) right now.

helenium3

helenium

helenium2

An OG shout-out

I wouldn’t be here today without these tireless workers.

Any success I’ve had to date I truly owe to them.

When I’m down and ready to give up, they give me a lift.

When things look bleak (like the weather) they stand tall and remind me of what was and what will be.

They never ask for anything in return.

When everyone else is all like “What about me?” or “I need some attention”, they stay quiet and do their job.

Today, I’d like to recognize the ornamental grasses and let them know how much I appreciate them. They are unsung heroes in my garden and deserve some praise to be heaped upon them. You will always be in my heart and I will never forget all that you’ve done. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random musings

Some thoughts as we head into the weekend:

I am now realizing the ornamental interest with Baptisia seed pods:

The grasses are starting to make their presence known:

Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’:

Panicum ‘Northwind’:

From left to right – Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’, Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ and Calamagrostis ‘Eldorado’:

 

Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’:

 

I planted Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ in mass this spring and the color blast is most welcomed right now:

Daylily ‘Little Grapette’ is still chugging away and I am enjoying the blooms for the first time in three years as the deer have stayed away. Like I’ve always said, daylillies are the greatest:

And finally, Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ is kind of liking its space. Looking at a severe pruning next winter:

 

 

Have a great one.