Sunday, June 19, 2011

OMG, I Did NOT do that!

Well, I've gone and done it now.  Some of you out there probably know what the outcome from my most recent rash action will be, but those who do know what will happen haven't shared that knowledge publicly, at least that I can find.  So I forged ahead, bravely going where no gardener who is willing to admit it has gone before.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegata'
The problem:  I'm tired of ornamental grasses that grow too tall and then flop over the roses in an attempt to smother them.  Yes, it was probably bad placement in the first place, but how was I to know how floppy some, but not all of the grasses, get?  I grow a number of ornamental grasses in my mixed shrub and rose beds and for the most part, I enjoy the extra season of flowering and change they add to my garden in autumn, and enjoy them again in winter as they collect and brave the snows. The Calamagrostis sp, and most of the Panicums mind their manners with a few exceptions, bravely standing up tall and not bothering the next-door neighbors.  But many of the Miscanthus, and Panicums such as 'Dallas Blues', just get too darned big for their own good.

I attempted to move some established clumps of Miscanthus sp. this spring that were poorly placed and I was taught once again how difficult the root system of these grasses are to divide and conquer.  In fact, they conquered me and I gave up.  My second thought was to try cutting them back by half in mid-summer and seeing what effect that would have on their ultimate flowering and size, but I can't find any information about the likely result.  Well, to be honest, everything I've read says NOT to cut them back mid-season.  Since I know that grasses grow from the base, I am skeptical of that advice and I'm wondering what the real harm will be. 

So, I did it anyway.  In the upper left, Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegata'  has been sheared off so that the Rose de Rescht at its feet can get some more sun.  Before, as you can see in the middle picture here, its full size even before flowering is an imposing figure next to the roses around it.  And in the picture at the lower right, you can see that I've hacked away at Panicum virginatum 'Dallas Blues' so that it doesn't shade my hard-found new rose 'Lillian Gibson' (the story about that, later).  In fact, a total of 5 other Miscanthus along with these two bad boys got a haircut.

Panicum virginatum 'Dallas Blues'with baby rose
 'Lillian Gibson' at its feet.
So go ahead, those of you who know what is going to happen, feel free to comment and say what an idiot I am and how you would have told me not to do it.  I found that cutting them off was easy to do, about 20 minutes for 7 grass clumps in the evening sun, and I'll do it again in a heartbeat if it isn't too detrimental to the fall display.  I'm hoping they mature shorter and more upright and I don't hurt flowering too much.  Time, as always, will provide me the ultimate answer.  I'll keep you apprised of how the experiment is going.


  1. You may loose you blooms on the miscanthus and that may cause more lateral growth. On the panicum think of it as cattle grazing, and we know that range grassed recover quite well from that. I think you'll be happy with the results of pruning the switchgrass.

  2. I can't venture a guess about the outcome of your barbering on the grasses ... I am interested, however, to see how 'Lillian Gibson' does for you. Looking forward to seeing her as a grown up young lady rose.

  3. I have cut the 'Variegatus' miscanthus grass back before BUT I did it a little differently. Instead of just wholesale chopping it off, I took each stem and cut it off right above where a blade of grass was coming out (there are several blades coming off each stem.) So it shortened the height yet it did not look "pruned." It is more time consuming to cut each individual blade but you don't have to go through the ugly period of a chopping. It did not affect the fall plumes at all. Keep us posted on your Edward Scissorhands experiment!

  4. Hi,
    I found your blog looking for ideas for planting native plants in my front yard. I live in Nebraska. I had to stop and leave a comment here. My husband insisted on planting some ornamental grasses when we first moved here, to the house he grew up in. I think we got them at a grocery store garden center. I don't remember what kinds they are. One of them, a variegated one, flops over some plants that I put in the same area. I've never done what you did, but I have chopped down the edges like that, and tied up the rest toward the bottom. I have to be careful, because the edges are sharp. I haven't done it yet this year, but I plan to. I wonder how much of a problem it would be to my husband if I chose your approach. I am interested in seeing more photos of yours as the season progresses.


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