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Gardening 101: Ornamental Grasses

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Pampas grass and its many cousins are such a mainstay in the north Texas landscape it is difficult to drive anywhere in the Metroplex and not see them on a regular basis. Pampas is the giant one, I have two in my backyard that fill a corner. They both are over ten feet tall now, I might have to move one to another location if they get much bigger. I also have about five or six other ornamental grasses; different sizes and blade color (shades come in silver, all shades of green, some purple) and different color plumes (from white to pink to silver/tan shades). These are tough plants, they handle drought magnificently and don't need much in fertilizer or maintenance.

Except once a year. Around this time of year is when you need to take your shears to your ornamental grasses.

I leave last year's growth up through the winter. I like the color and how they sway in the wind. You can cut the plumes if you want to keep your plant from spreading seed, some varieties are considered somewhat invasive. It is a good idea to keep from cutting back early other than aesthetic; last year's growth is protecting the roots of the plant during the winter. That is the same reason to wait to around the last freeze (for the DFW area that is 3/12) to cut them back.

I used to simply chop them off about six to eight inches off the ground like a crew-cut. But that's not the way to do it. You should shape them into a sphere, close to the ground. That way you'll enjoy watching that gray/tan ball of dead grass slowly morph into a small green ball over the next month. Of course it doesn't take long for the grass to get near full size; grasses are vigorous growers.

These are great background plants in the landscape. The Texas wind keeps them in motion and you'll always be able to find a color that suites the surroundings. Just lovely plants.

Next week's story is on dividing perennials, something I'm doing for the first time this year. Not only is it good for your plant, it is a way to expand your landscape without buying new plants. Win-win!

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