Grasses add interest, motion to your landscape

We now have grasses bigger than lawns! There are many types of ornamental grasses adding interest and personality to our landscapes. Use them the same way you use accents in your landscape.

To see ornamental grasses at their peak of beauty, come take a tour of them at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd.

Ornamental grasses often are underrated but they can add movement, color and fun to your landscape. These wonderful plants are easy to grow and can bring a symphony of sights and sounds — birds love them, too — to your winter garden.

Because ornamental grasses are fine textured, plant them near large-leaved, coarse-textured plants such as agaves. They also contrast well planted against a block wall. Or plant them as accents near entryways and patios. These grasses connote moisture and seem to cool the area. In addition to the pleasing effects of their wispy foliage, they display attractive seed heads through the winter to become star attractions as a source of food for birds.

Here are some of my favorites to consider for your landscape:

* Regal Mist is a beautiful, graceful, colorful, feathery ornamental grass. You have to see this grass in full bloom to believe it. It transforms my yard into a glowing work of art when backlit by the evening sun; these incredible blooms appear like clouds of purple vapor coming off the plumes. At other times, the blooms look like fluffy cotton candy.

* Maiden grass is one of the showiest and liveliest grasses at the preserve. Use it as a filler, a screen or a hedge throughout the year, but when the weather cools, it moves onto center stage. Its long, arching leaves moved by gentle breezes conjure images of ballerinas dancing as the entire clump moves in unison, each stem leaning on others for direction.

* Deer grass has graceful foliage and airy, soft, colorful seed heads that appear now and into spring. It is at home in a dry creek, with grass spilling along the streambed as a gentle breeze causes its foliage to sweep off the rocks.

* Blue grama, is a small grass with blue-green leaves that reaches ankle high and spreads out a foot. Attractive “foxtail-like” seed heads develop above the foliage in July, continuing into winter. As seed heads dry, they curl into an interesting semicircle. I like it for its “natural meadow” effect.

* Pampas grass is the largest of the grasses, and is perhaps the most striking. Saw-toothed leaves shoot up and billow out to form a fountain 10 feet high and as wide. Flowering stalks rise above the leaves, which open into attractive seed-head plumes. Each creamy white to pale pink plume is one to three feet long, and persists into spring.

These are just a few of the many ornamental grasses that you’ll see Saturday at the preserve.


Gardening is a healthy habit, but physical conditions can limit our ability to enjoy gardening. By modifying clothing, equipment and/or the garden itself and learning safe lifting techniques, you can take the pain out of gardening. Master gardener Diane Elsen is a licensed physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics and neurological conditions. This free workshop with her is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Lifelong Learning Center, 8050 Paradise Road.

The gardening series continues Oct. 21 with “Taking the Guesswork Out of Watering Your Garden” and on Oct. 28 with “How to Grow Anything in the Desert.” To reserve a seat for these classes, call 257-5555.


The Desert Garden Center is having its first pre-order bare root fruit tree sale. The fruit trees available have proven successful for the past 10 years at the UNR orchard. The center at 6221 W. Charleston Blvd. is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday through October. Get those Mojave natives you’ve wanted for your landscape. For more information, drop by the center or call 651-5052.


If plant conservation is on your mind, check out what’s available at the state nursery in Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, 9200 Tule Springs Road. The nursery grows more than 45 species each year, representing more than 100,000 plants. Plants come in one-, five- and 15-gallon containers. The nursery is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and Saturdays (with the exception of Oct. 31) through Nov.14. For further details, call 486-5411.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ or call him at 822-7754.

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