I’ve got the Blues…

Five of them, to be exact. I picked up  ‘The Blues’ little bluestem grass in gallon containers last fall, usually on clearance. Schizachyrium scoparium is a clumping grass that you may have noticed in the fall, when it turn an orangey-gold color that lasts all winter. It gets about two feet tall and can be either green or blue. I really like blue grass, so I chose a cultivar.

Little bluestem has nice seed heads that rosy finches, juncos, and sparrows enjoy. According to the USDA, “The dusky skipper butterfly caterpillars overwinter in tube tents above the base of the clumps”.

The Blues’ will be 24-48 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide, requires full sun, and is hardy to Zone 3.

Since it’s a prairie plant, I’m not sure how it will do here. My meadow area has several “stripes” of soil types, and it’s on a downhill slope that drains water for many days after a rain. A couple of holes have brownish-grey clay under about an inch of topsoil, and they were both very damp, a week after any rainfall and with some intense heat. I dug those holes wider and spread out the root so they won’t be in a clay bowl. And there’s the whole should-have-been-potted-up-6-months-ago; some were so root-bound that I had to cut the pot off, and one had a single little clump left alive in the pot.

I also put two Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’  in the meadow, splitting the healthier one in half so that I would have an odd number (it’s a design thing, I understand). Switchgrass can get 4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, and can take a little shade. I planted that at the back of the area where it gets shade in the late afternoon. The soil was dark brown and sandier for about 6 inches before I hit dark-grey clay. Again, these grasses tend to flop in too-rich or wet soils, and every summer has been wet since I moved here in 2014. In the past, we tended to have at least a few weeks without rain in the summer, and dry autumns, but not lately. The slope does drain very well and I do not plan to irrigate, so we will see.

Here’s an after picture. There’s a Franklin tree, Franklinia alatamaha, just to the right of the tarp. That’s my second one from Niche Gardens, after the deer devoured the first. The glads were left over from the previous owner; I didn’t remember them last year, but here they are. I’ll pull them this fall and put them in the front bed.


Far left is the oakleaf hydrangea I planted a couple of weeks ago, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Semmes Beauty’. I rooted this plant as part of the propagation class at JC Raulston Arboretum – I highly recommend this class!


Here’s the other two switchgrasses, with a better view of the Franklin tree.


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