Grasses: Native Grass, Carex pennsylvanica, Bulrush

Grasses come in a variety of sizes and appearances. Grass comes in exotic flowering, native and weeping varieties. Uses include landscaping for restoration, reforestation and is used upscale landscaping projects. It's also harvested for wetland mitigation plantings and for wildlife refuge areas in the native forests. Over nine thousand versions of grasses, found in the Poaceae family, live on every continent on earth. Rather than tip based growing points, grasses' growth begins at the base of the plant or underground. Large root systems sustain grasses, allowing for rapid regrowth above ground. Grass stems contain nodes that produce leaves. Long and narrow, the leaf blade tapers to the tip. Small flowers, called spikelets, may sprout from some grasses and produce pollen.

One of the most successful species of plant on earth, grasses are not just for lawns or forage. They lend fantastic texture and color to gardens. Some grasses, such as plume grass or reed grass, give height as well. Most grasses are easy to maintain and don’t have to be divided for years after they’re established. Ornamental grasses have few diseases or pests, and many can tolerate a period of drought. Here are a few to consider for a garden:

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Carex is a sedge. The difference is that the stems of a sedge are stable while the stalks of grass are hollow in most species. Grass stems also have joints, while sedge stems don’t. Carex forms clumps and has the advantage over other ornamental grasses in that it does well in the shade, which makes it suitable for placing in a shady border or at the edge of a shaded path. The clumps are so dense that they discourage weeds. Carex pensylvanica flowers very early in the spring. The plant contains both male and female flowers and does best in hardiness zones 3 to 9. It grows from six to 18 inches high and prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Bulrush: Bulrushes also belong to the sedge family. There are about 150 species of bulrush. They like wet places and are an excellent plant to the area around a pond or water feature. Bulrushes grow from between one and 10 feet tall and have green or brown flowers, triangular stems, and long, thin, strap-like leaves. Like carex, they grow best in hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Miscanthus: This grass, also called Eulalia, is grown for its beautiful plumes and its height. It can grow to 10 feet tall, with narrow, three to four foot long leaves. The plumes last from summer until fall. This grass, which is, in fact, a member of the grass family, likes full sun and well-drained soil.