Sunday, 8 May 2011

Panicum virgatum Ornamental Grass at Lovegrass Farm

Native Panicum with morning sun on dew covered panicles
Panicum (PAN-ih-kum) virgatum (veer-GAH-tum) or Switchgrass is a long-lived warm season grower that is Native to Canada.  Before European settlement, it was a major component of many grassland ecosystems.  Switchgrass tolerates a broad range of soils.  It is drought-tolerant once established, somewhat salt-tolerant and can withstand soggy soils.  For us the Native Panicum grows about 4 ft. or 1.2 m. tall in our dry sandy soil.  It is a great plant for stabilizing slopes and is now being researched for use as a biofuel.

Panicum 'Heavy Metal' July 1, 2010
'Heavy Metal' is one of the most upright growing of the blue-leaved varieties and has better than average drought tolerance.  It grows to about 5 ft. or 150 cm. in flower making a tall screen.  Panicum begins growth late in Spring, grows quickly with the heat of early Summer and flowers in July and August.  Panicum sways and rustles in gentle summer breezes.  Mainly clump-forming it may also spread slowly by below ground rhizomes.

The flower Panicles of Panicum
The delicate airy seed panicles of Panicum rise a foot (30 cm.) above the foliage and are often pink tinted when first opening.  These flowers look lovely covered with dew or frost and back lit with the rising or setting sun! 

Autumn color of Panicum
Panicum takes on a soft golden color in Autumn.  They make a good specimen plant, great in sweeps or masses, for screening, for around pools or ponds, or in large containers.  I'm going to try a grouping of tall yellow coneflower with 'Heavy Metal' this year. 

Panicum in December
Switchgrass stands up well in winter unless we have heavy snows making a perfect winter cover and food source for wildlife.

'Heavy Metal' in late July

Panicum 'Shenandoah' in early July
Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah' is a very colorful plant, more delicate than other panicums and grows to 4 ft. or (1.2m.) in flower.  It is a slow spreader which makes it great for mixing in perennial borders. 

Panicum 'Shenandoah' in late July

Frost on 'Shenandoah'

Panicum 'Prairie Sky' in Fall

Panicum 'Prairie Sky' in mid July
'Prairie Sky' is the most blue Panicum with soft powder blue foliage to 4 ft. or 1.2m. in flower.  It tends to flop in shade or moist conditions.  It is a lighter textured plant than 'Heavy Metal' and tends to flop over or lodge if the soil is fertile.  So keep it lean and mean for 'Prairie Sky'!

No comments:

Post a Comment