Winter Favourites

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. 

Bluestem in author’s garden

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.

Switchgrass in author’s garden

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.

Resource:

https://www.inournature.ca/native-grasses-for-ontario-gardens

3 thoughts on “Winter Favourites”

  1. Be very careful – Grass is grass is grass – Some years ago someone brought me some Pampas grass – due to illness I have not been able to garden for two summers, Now all I have is that wretched pampas grass – hopefully I can get someone clean it out in the Spring , Beryl

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  2. great article, Lois. I love my grasses in the garden. They also tend to hold the snow in place which is good for the perennials.

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  3. I planted ‘Twilight Zone’ Little Bluestem next to some late season lavender-colored asters. In early fall, the combination is dazzling!

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