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Design

Flowering Grasses: Uncommon Varieties

These nine varieties have end-of-season fireworks you haven’t seen before

Fine Gardening – Issue 177
Sometimes it’s all about the late-season show. Although their foliage is a textural asset, the plumes of certain grasses, such as Korean feather reed grass (above), ‘Red Rocket’ purple fountain grass, and big bluestem (below), are the best attribute. Photo: Marianne Majerus/Marianne Majerus Garden Images

When it comes to ornamental grasses and their flowers, also known as inflorescences, it’s the subtle things that add up. Sure, they don’t have the in-your-face flower power of a peony, but the synergy of their texture and color is what makes them so showy—and, unfortunately, ephemeral. Grasses have a tendency to evolve quickly right in front of your eyes, going from clumps of foliage to spectacular flags of color waving in the wind seemingly overnight. In fact, the movement of their flowers is how ornamental grasses truly take your breath away.

Pennisetum Red Rocket

During the season, grasses provide a backdrop and strong textural contrast to shrubs and other broad-leaved perennials, but when they send up their plumes, they can steal the show. These plants may not always be the main meal of the garden, but they are like the spices that give it taste (now if only we…

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