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A grassy meadow for mountain gardens.

Mix billowy grasses, boulders, and a pond for a natural look

A wash runs through part of Sallye Schumacher's front yard. To soften its austere look, she planted it with ornamental grasses that require no supplemental irrigation. She had the wash lined with granite boulders, then planted fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln') and other grasses that billow softly. Schumacher's garden is near the slopes of Mummy Mountain in Arizona. Rocky Mountain gardeners can duplicate her meadow effect using ornamental grasses suitable for mountain climates (see box at right).

Now fully established, the grasses form arching clumps among the boulders. In late October, Schumacher cuts them back to prevent reseeding and to encourage dense new growth in spring. When occasional heavy rains run off the mountain and fill the wash, the water flows around the boulders and collects in a pond Schumacher formed in a low area.

One good mail-order source for ornamental grasses is High Country Gardens of Santa Fe (800/925-9387 or

4 great plants for a mountain meadow

Delicate leaves and fountainlike forms make these ornamental grasses especially showy among boulders and beside ponds.

BLUE OAT GRASS (Helictotrichon sempervirens). Perennial. Fountains of bright blue-gray, narrow leaves, 2 to 3 feet tall, are wonderfully graceful. Combines well with other grasses and broad-leafed plants, or with boulders in rock gardens. Full sun. Needs good drainage and regular water.

BULBOUS OAT GRASS (Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum 'Variegatum'). Perennial. Narrow leaves, 6 to 12 inches long, are boldly edged and striped in white. Erect, oatlike flower spikes appear in summer. Makes a handsome accent in perennial borders and large rock gardens, and can brighten a dark place under trees or big shrubs. Sun or part shade. Needs moderate water.

EULALIA GRASS (Miscanthus sinensis). Perennial. This graceful clumping grass, 5 to 6 feet tall, is a standout in borders or as a focal point. 'Yaku Jima' is smaller (to 4 ft.). Can take sun or shade, and needs lots of water; perfect beside ponds.

FOERSTER'S FEATHER REED GRASS (Calamagrostis arundinacea 'Karl Foerster'). Perennial. Clumping grass with upright form, 4 to 5 feet tall. Feathery flower spikes, which emerge in early summer, ripen to wheatcolored seedheads in fall. Full sun. Tolerates some drought.
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Author:Trulsson, Nora Burba
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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