Ornamental Grasses

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Ornamental Grasses

The Ornamental Grass Collection was established in 1995 when the Ames Garden Club funded a trial bed of 25 cultivars of Miscanthus sinensis, (Chinese Silver Grass). This planting was one of the first regional public garden plantings which was evaluated for several years as part of a public/private consortium of growers led by Mary Meyer of the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

The collection is of greatest interest in the fall when the prominent plumes showcase their luster. Twenty-five specimens of replicated Miscanthus sinensis cultivars provide a great opportunity for visitors to perform visual comparisons. Records indicated a harsh winter in 1995 which removed entire cultivars from the trial. Buchloe dactyloides (Buffalo grass), was obtained from Dr. Terry Riordan from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to fill the abandoned spots from 1995.

Iowa was once the land of tall grass prairie with soil and light intensity ideal for the growth of many members of the grass (Poacae) family. Grass-like plants such as sedges (Carex species) and rushes (Juncus species) grow well, albeit in more shaded or moist locations. Miscanthus sinensis and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) cultivars are some of the best choices for winter interest as their foliage and plumes holding well throughout the year. Breeders have given the horticulture industry over 100 Miscanthus sinensis cultivars to choose from. The largest we display is the aptly named ‘Silberfeder’, making 7-foot wide fountain with feathery, silvery flowers. The smallest is ‘Gold Bar’ at about 18 inches with a strictly upright physique. The fine textured, late flowering older cultivar ‘Gracillimus’ or maiden grass holds well over winter but an early frost can doom its blossoms, robbing the winter show.

A few Miscanthus cultivars in our collection also display unique fine textured foliage. Examples in our collection
include ‘Gracillimus’, ‘Graziella’, and ‘November Sunset’. There also are many variegated forms with green/white or green/yellow variegation. Vertical stripes are found on ‘Rigoletto’, and ‘Variegatus’. Horizontal gold bars on a wider blade ‘Strictus’ (Porcupine grass) and ‘Puenktchen’ increases the visual appeal of the grass clump even when not in bloom.


Accession #’s Family Genus  species Cultivar
960045B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Blutenwunder
070005B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Dixieland
950111A Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Ferner Osten
960038A-C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Gracillimus
950112B-C, 960040B-C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Graziella II
950113C, 960041C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Grosse Fontane
950115A-B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Malepartus
960039A-C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis November Sunset
950116A-B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Positano
950117C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Puenktchen
950127A-B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Purpurescens
969998A, 960008C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Rigoletto
960050A-B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Roland II
950118A-B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Rotsibler
950119A-C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Silberfeder
950123CA-C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Strictus
950124A-C Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Variegatus
990029B Poaceae Miscanthus sinensis Wettefahne

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