Grasses - Non native

Black Madras (Purple Rice) *New for 2010*

Height: 16"

Zone: 7

A rice cultivar grown as an ornamental with its green-purple foliage turning to almost black.  Best grown in containers or around a water feature since it needs consistently moist to wet soil. Looks fabulous all summer. Needs full sunshine.

Japanese Blood Grass *New for 2010*

Height: 24'

Zone: 5

Green leaves develop red tips that become darker as the season progresses.  Full sun to part shade.

Purple Fountain Grass  

Height: 24-36"

Zone: 9

Burgundy/purple foliage with light purple plumes.  Used as an annual and accent or background for flowers. Full sun to part shade.

Frosted Curls Sedge *New for 2010*

Height: 10"

Zone: 7

'Frosted Curls' is a compact grass forming dense tufts of icy green leaves in low mound. The slightest breeze causes the iridescent foliage to shimmer and glow.

Warm and Cold Season Native Grasses

Cool season grasses start their growth early in the spring and continue to grow as long as rain and cool temperatures prevail. They go dormant during the hot, dry months of summer and start growing again in fall if moisture is adequate.

Warm season grasses break dormancy in mid-spring and grow during the hot summer months. These plants have extensive root systems reaching as deep as 10' making them very hardy and drought tolerant.

Tall Grasses - Native to Manitoba

Awned Wheatgrass *New for 2010*

Height: 24 - 36"

Zone:  3

Bloom: July - September

Awned (aka Slender) wheatgrass is an erect, loosely tufted bunchgrass with dense roots.  Blue green foliage.  Cool season.  Provides early cover for later warm season grasses like Big Bluestem and Indian Grass.  The main cool season grass in Tall Grass Prairie.  Short lived but reseeds easily.

Big Bluestem *New for 2010*

Height: 4 - 5'

Zone:  2

Bloom: June

A tall, warm weather bunchgrass.  Blue green stems turn reddish brown in fall.  Purple flower heads.  Full sun.  Most abundant on moist, well drained, fertile loams, where its roots may reach deeper than 10'

Canada Wild Rye *New for 2010*

Height:  36"

Zone:  2

Bloom: May  - June

Tall, erect , cool season bunchgrass  usually growing as individual plants. In prairie Canada, it  frequently occurs on sandy soils and wooded areas.  Attractive curving seed heads can be dried.

Indian Grass *New for 2010*

Height:  4 - 7'

Zone: 3

Bloom: June - September

Commonly occurs with Big and Little Bluestem and Switchgrass in tall grass prairie.  Grows best on fertile, well drained soils.  Golden, plume-like head and reddish-yellow foliage making it one of the most beautiful of the native grasses.  Highly nutritious.  Warm season bunchgrass.

Short Grasses - Native to Manitoba

Blue Fescue *New for 2010*

Height:  8 - 10"

Zone:  3

Bloom: May - June

Blue green foliage.  Tan flower heads.  Fine textured spiky grass.  Compact clumps.  Cool weather.  Great for accents or edging.  Prefers average to dry soil.

Blue Fescue - Elijah Blue *New for 2010*

Height:  8 - 10"

Zone:  3

Bloom: May - June

A cultivar of Blue Fescue selected for its superior blue colour that holds well through the entire season.

Blue Grama*New for 2010*

Height: 12 - 18"'

Zone:  3

Bloom: July - September

Commonly found throughout the Prairies, usually on sandier upland sites.  Thin blue green foliage with decorative flower heads.  Warm season  bunchgrass.  Grows in all well drained soils.  Drought tolerant once established.

Little Bluestem *New for 2010*

Height: 2 - 3'

Zone: 3

Bloom: June

A widely distributed warm season bunchgrass with a dense root system reaching to 8'. One of the most popular and colourful native grasses.  Drought-tolerant Frequently occurs on thin soils found on knolls and steep slopes as well as on gravelly or sandy soils.   Blue green foliage in summer turns an attractive reddish brown with white seed stalks in fall .  

Little Bluestem - The Blues *New for 2010*

Height:  2 - 3'

Zone: 3

Bloom: June

A cultivar of Little Bluestem selected especially for its colour.

Prairie Dropseed *New for 2010*

Height:  1-2'

Zone: 3

Bloom: August - September

Very attractive tight clumping bunchgrass.  Bright green leaves turn reddish brown in fall.  Warm season grass with an attractive delicate appearance.

Side Oats Grama *New for 2010*

Height:  2 - 3'

Zone: 3

Bloom: June - September

Erect, tufted warm season bunchgrass often associated with western wheatgrass, blue grama, and sometimes little bluestem on thin upland sites. Tiny, bright purple and orange flower parts make it especially attractive.  Small oat-like seeds are suspended on one side of the stem.  Grows vigorously on loamy soils but does not compete well with taller grasses.

 

Grasses in the Landscape

Ornamental grasses are becoming more popular as decorative elements in landscaping. Many of these, like Purple Fountain Grass and Black Madras, are tropical plants that are treated as annuals on the prairies.

 

When looking for grasses, you should definitely consider using native grasses.  Many of the smaller native grasses such as Blue Grama, Prairie Dropseed, Side Oats Grama, Blue Fescue and Little Bluestem are very decorative at different times during the season.  If you have a little more room, try adding a tall grass like Canada Wild Rye  as a centrepiece.  The arching seed stems of Wild Rye last all winter.  All of these grasses are perennial and most are very well behaved as far as spreading goes.  We have naturally occurring clumps of Wild Rye on our land that have not spread significantly in years.

 

By using native grasses you are helping to preserve our vanishing prairie heritage.  These grasses are not just part of our heritage.  They evolved over millennia since the last ice age in conjunction with entire communities of animals and other plants.  Many of these grasses attract certain species of birds and butterflies that evolved as part of these communities.  

 

In our experience, you don't need acres of different plants to begin to increase bio diversity. Even relatively small areas will begin to attract the attention of birds and insects.  Turf grass (lawn) may look attractive but it is an ecological desert.  Adding native grasses in clumps or buffer areas along the borders of your property will help bring your yard to life.

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