All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"Growing the Many Different Ornamental Grasses"

During spring and summer, ornamental grasses are perennials that provide a graceful, green backdrop in the garden, but in fall and winter as other plants go dormant and disappear, ornamental grasses suddenly emerge as focal points in the garden. Their fluffy seed heads appear and sway delicately in the breeze and their arching foliage turns a golden tan. In winter, a light dusting of snow clings to their flowers and foliage, outlining their attractive shape. Their stems and leaves rustle in the slightest breeze, providing an almost musical sound during winter. Set against a backdrop of snow, ornamental grasses really stand out in the winter garden. To enjoy their beauty all winter long, I don't cut back my ornamental grasses until a nice warm day in March. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Dwarf Miscanthus 'Adagio'There are many different types of ornamental grasses. One of my favorites is miscanthus. Of the many varieties of miscanthus, one of the best is Dwarf Miscanthus 'Adagio.' It's much more compact than most miscanthus. It forms a handsome clump of slender, arching foliage about four feet high and wide. It produces an abundance of flower plumes that appear in mid August. The foliage has a thin stripe of white running down the center of each leaf. Because of its compact size, it's a good choice for a small garden.

dwarf fountain grass 'Hameln'Another nice ornamental grass for smaller gardens is dwarf fountain grass. The variety 'Hameln' forms a perfect, rounded mound of arching foliage. It grows only about two feet high and wide. Rising through the foliage are bottle-brush-shaped flower plumes. The flowers appear in late summer and remain attractive through winter.

Feather reed grassOne of the best grasses for an upright accent in the garden is feather reed grass. It forms a low base of arching green leaves. The foliage only stands about two feet high. Rising through the center of the foliage are stiff, upright flower plumes that stand three to four feet tall. The flower plumes are slender and turn tan in late summer. To me they resemble stalks of wheat. Set off against an evergreen backdrop, the flowers really stand out.

Ravenna grassPampas grass is a beautiful ornamental grass prized for its large flower plumes. Unfortunately for gardeners here in western Massachusetts, pampas grass is not hardy, but there is a substitute that closely resembles pampas grass that is hardy here. It's called ravenna grass. It's also sometimes called northern pampas grass. It's a large ornamental grass that makes a wonderful specimen plant in the garden. It can also be used for screening. It forms a large clump of arching foliage that stands five to six feet high and wide. Flower plumes tower over the foliage, held on stems that easily reach 14 feet tall or more. In my garden, the flower plumes are so tall I can see them swaying in the breeze from a second-floor window! The huge silvery flower plumes are about a foot long and really do resemble pampas grass.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"How to Grow African Gardenia"

Q. I recently purchased an African gardenia from your Online Store and it's thriving. I would like to know what I need to do to keep it growing and blooming so well. Any advice you could give me would be appreciated. Thanks!

A. African gardenia is an easy-to-grow relative of gardenia that blooms reliably in the home, blooming almost continuously all year long with no extra effort. It bears small, star-shaped flowers that are pink in bud and open creamy white.

African GardeniaAfrican gardenia is not a fussy plant, unlike the common gardenia. Grow African gardenia in a bright window and water it thoroughly when the surface of the soil dries out. That's it. Not fussy.


I fertilize every three weeks with Electra Plant Food and alternate between Electra Plant Food and Electra Bloom Food.

Click here to read more about African gardenia and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Click here to read more about Electra Plant Food and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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