By Lois Scott, Master Gardener
As I begin to hunker down for winter, the garden outside my windows still gives me pleasure. Some plants are blackened and not particularly attractive but grasses continue to look beautiful throughout the winter months.
Two of my favourite grasses for winter are Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). These are both native grasses that are not only beautiful but well behaved in my garden. Little Bluestem is a great choice for a dry, sunny spot or even a rain garden that may flood and then dry out. It can grow up to 4 feet high and 2 feet wide. Switchgrass is a taller grass that grows to 6 feet with a 3-foot spread. It prefers soil that is medium to wet and is also a great choice for rain gardens.
Both these grasses are host plants for many species of butterflies. They also provide seeds and nesting materials for birds and shelter for small mammals.
Little Bluestem and Switchgrass are “warm season” grasses which means that unlike “cool season” grasses they don’t go dormant in the heat of summer. Warm season grasses thrive in the heat. They start growing later in springtime and flower later in the summer.
This brings me to why I love them in winter. They hold up their beautiful seed heads that look stunning when frosty, they create movement in the garden, provide colour all winter long and they help make my garden a winter refuge.