An Ornamental Grass Garden

the-centerpiece-jpg.jpgThe Ornamental Grass Garden
in the Springfield Botanical Gardens in Springfield, Missour may be unique in the United States. Certainly it stands among the largest such gardens in the nation.
      Created in 2006 by Dr. Bill Roston, the Garden's first plantings were
75 ornamental grass varieties, with plans to add more in the future.
addition to providing great beauty, the Garden is designed to illustrate the extremely wide range of variations in size, texture, color, color patterns, and flowering that have made ornamental grasses enormously popular in recent years.
      Homeowners, amateur gardeners, and professional gardeners and landscapers are increasingly using ornamental grasses to enliven and beautify their gardens and landscapes. A major goal of the Ornamental Grass Garden is of course to enable visitors to view many varieties to help them choose the best for their own properties.
      Today the Garden is under the care of Friends of the Gardens members and Katie Steinhoff, coordinator of the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center, who have taken on its expansion and improvement and the major task of making sure that all grasses are accurately labeled.
      The Ornamental Grass Garden is one of 36 gardens in the Springfield Botanical Gardens at 2400 S. Scenic in Springfield.

A Rocky Beginning

In 2006, the work began with nothing more than native stone, soil, a wheelbarrow, and the vision of an ornamental grass garden of unique design, value, and appeal.

The Big Dig

The construction of the Ornamental Grass Garden was one tall order, a project requiring the movement and arrangement of tons and tons of dirt and stone. The man tackling the job in the NewHolland loader is Bill Roston, the creator of the garden in more than one sense of the word.

Bermed Beds and Native Stone

Essential to building the Ornamental Grass Garden were bermed beds to provide excellent drainage and, to ring them, literally tons of Missouri's beautiful native limestone.

The Plan

The sketched-out plan for the Garden was a big help in its early stages.

The Bones of the Garden

The first step in giving the garden form was to create one "leg" of the design, shaped by these stones. 

A 'Sheriff's Badge' Design
Taking on what seemed a Herculean task at the time were Bill and his wife Judy, here working in the background. Bill explained that the Garden's basic design is an old-fashioned, five-pointed "sheriff's badge," also known as a "sheriff's star," with wedges between the star points.

Taking Shape

Gradually the garden began to take shape, with the star points clearly defined, as shown here.

The Centerpiece

When the groundwork for the Garden's center bed was complete, all was ready for planting.

The First Plantings

The first plantings included seedlings and divisions of smaller grasses such as oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius), Japanese Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus), and Dwarf Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila'). 

'Boulder Blue' Fescue

One of the very first plantings in the Ornamental Grass Garden, 'Boulder Blue' Fescue (Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue') is a perfect jewel of a plant that grows quickly into a dense mound of spiky silvery-blue foliage only 8 inches tall by 8 inches wide. Evergreen, drought-resistant, and perennial, it must have full sun to do well. Its size, coloration, and distinctive texture make it ideal for rock and Alpine gardens, border edging, and containers. 

A Star Point

The first star point is planted.

The First Good Growth

It wasn't long before the Garden was showing enough good growth to suggest what it might become. Here Bill and Judy Roston have added colorful annuals to fill in and provide visual interest while new grasses are being added.

Idaho Fescue

Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis) is a short-grass prairie plant native to many western states. An excellent wildlife forage plant, it should never be planted where deer are a problem. Perennial and drought resistant, it needs full sun and will grow to 2 feet or more tall and as wide. Its narrow, gray-green leaves lend texture and subtle color to the garden. The flowers are inconspicuous. Common names include Blue Bunchgrass and Bunchgrass Fescue.

Mosquito Grass

Mosquito Grass (Dasypyrum villosum) is a perennial grass that features delicate-appearing green-gray foliage and flowers that that appear in summer and start out silvery and gradually turn purple. The flowers attach to the stems at right angles, creating interesting effects. The plant needs full sun and must have good drainage. It can grow to 3 feet tall and a foot wide. Common names include Grama Grass, Blue Grama Grass, Signal Arm Grass, and Eyelash Grass.

Variegated Palm Sedge
Variegated Palm Sedge (Carex muskingumensis 'Oehme') is a sport discovered in the garden of famed modern landscape designer Wolfgang Oehme. It get its common name from its leaf variegation and the palm-like way the foliage radiates outward from the center. This superb accent plant grows slowly, likes part to full shade and moist soil, and tolerates many conditions. It can reach 2 feet in height with a similar spread.

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 Purple Fountain Grass
Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') is certainly among the most popular ornamental grasses in the world for its deep purple foliage and graceful reddish-tinged flowers. Beautiful as a specimen plant in the garden or landscape, it much prefers full sun and will grow to 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. It resists drought and deer. In the Ozarks it must be grown as an annual, being hardy only in zones 8-11. Bonus: The flowers make superb cut flowers.

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 Hardy Sugar Cane
Hardy Sugar Cane (Saccarum arundinaceum) is, might be expected, the hardiest and the most visually attractive of the plants known as sugar canes. This perennial grass, shown here freshly in flower, can grow as tall as 10 feet and as wide. Flowers appear in mid-October and may be white to pale pink. This picturesque plant does best in full sun and with regular watering.

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