6 Unpretentious Grains For Container Compositions

The fashion for ornamental grasses in landscape design could not help but migrate from gardens to balconies and loggias. In the U.S. and Europe, annuals in containers are increasingly being placed in company with ornamental grasses. A few years ago I also decided to add grains to the compositions on the balcony and in flower beds in my garden. Which ornamental grasses are easy to grow in seedlings? Which of them can hibernate well in the middle zone, and which of them are destined to the fate of annuals? Will cereals bloom in the year of sowing, and with what flowers they can successfully combine? In this article I will tell you about six herbs which I successfully use in my balcony compositions and in my flower garden. © PicSnaper

For me, growing cereals in compositions with summerhouses is not just a tribute to fashion or a blind copying of garden magazines. In the company of discreet herbs annual flowers begin to look very different - more solid and stylish. Cereals give structure to the composition, add air to the plantings, motion and sound at the slightest breeze.

Besides, it turned out that the majority of cereals from seeds to grow is not much more difficult to prepare seedlings of petunias or other unpretentious annuals.

1. The finest knotweed

The most common variety of this species of knotweed "Pony Tails" (Pony Tails). The name of the cultivar means "horse's tail" in English, which probably indicates the resemblance of the mop of the finest spikelets to horsehair. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Assisted sagebrush usually blooms only on the 2nd-3rd year, so I never managed to see firsthand the flowering of this herb because of its low frost-resistance. However, the dense clumps of narrow linear leaves have no less resemblance to a horsetail and look very attractive.

The full height of 40 centimeters in flowering is reached only, so in annual culture it is a low compact herb suitable for small containers.

Seeds of "Pony Tail" feather grass germinate very easily within a week without cold stratification or other additional procedures. The growth rate of the seedlings is medium. So to get fluffy clumps by the beginning of May it is better to sow the seeds indoors in February-March.

I liked most of all to combine this cereal with petunia on my balcony. Both plants are very light loving and responsive to fertilizer. Besides, such a duet looked originally and allowed to see the usual annual in a completely different view. Unfortunately, this species of feather grass belongs to frost-resistance zone 6, that's why it can't endure frosts below -20 degrees. Attempts to keep containers with feathers in a cool basement at +10 degrees were unsuccessful. Wintering in the ground with a good shelter also ended in failure. Nevertheless, I grow this cereal every year as an annual crop to add airy greenery to the eye-catching annual flowers.

For sale you can also often find the unusual feather grass  "Firework", (originally a hybrid "Sirocco") whose foliage changes color from green to shades of copper and pink as the temperature drops. Seed producers often cheat a bit by referring to the hybrid as a perennial, without specifying its degree of winter hardiness. But this cultivar also belongs to the 6 zone, which means that the feather-grass cannot resist temperatures below -20...-23 degrees, and in the middle belt it is grown only as an annual crop.

2. Damp sedge (Carex comans)

Hybrid Amazon Mist of damp sedge is one of the smallest grasses (not higher than 20 centimeters) which can be successfully used for decoration of the edges of caches and hanging baskets as it has typical slightly drooping sickle-curved leaves.

6 unpretentious grains for container compositions
Damp sedge (Carex comans). © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

The narrow, textured leaves of the damp-like sedge are light green in color, they are rather tough to the touch, because of what from a distance (unknowingly) the plants can be mistaken for artificial grass.

The sedge Amazon Mist is particularly effective in windy weather, because the reverse side of the leaves is of silvery color. It creates a characteristic shimmering effect in the wind.

The name of this cereal is on everyone's ears who spent summers in the countryside as a child, and it seems that the hybrid variety should also be as resistant as the famous weed. But, alas, the wet sedge is a thermophilic variety of the familiar grass from New Zealand and does not tolerate low temperatures below -23 degrees.

The sedge blooms in late summer with unsightly spike, but flowering, in any case, comes only in the second year if grown in the southern regions. As a young sedge grown from seed grows rather slowly, so it is better to sow in the middle to the end of winter.

Germination of seeds takes about a week, during this time it is better to keep the containers on a well-lit windowsill or under a lamp of daylight. After planting in a permanent place, this original ornamental herb needs minimal care, if you place it in a sunny place and provide regular watering. In some cases it is necessary to remove some of the yellowed leaves from shrubs, but this problem occurs very rarely. The

Amazon Mist grows in a small and neat clump, so it is better to choose not tall and compact annuals with small flowers. I liked to combine it with hybrid nemesia, bacopa, mimulus, violet, calibrachoa, dwarf lion's grass varieties and so on

The wet sedge has other no less interesting varieties. For example, the hybrid Red Rooster is attractive with red-bronze coloring of the leaves. And cultivar Bronco features textured cuttings of bronze-brown color. Both hybrids are also of little winter hardiness and are grown as annuals in the middle belt.

3. Pennisetum (peristocetinum), or "fountain grass"

Pennisetum surprises with fluffy brush-like inflorescences, structured bush shape and ornate foliage. You can find seeds of several species of this herb but Pennisetum alopecuroide (Pennisetum alopecuroide) and Pennisetum orientale (Pennisetum orientale) are the most suitable for cultivation in the middle belt. The Pennisetum alopecuroide can be cultivated as a perennial crop and grow in flower beds under a light shelter. The above varieties are rather winter-hardy (they can withstand -29 degrees below zero)

Growing Pennisetum from seeds is not difficult. If you plan to use it as a perennial garden plant, the seeds can be sown in May directly in the ground. But to decorate balconies I prefer to grow pennisetum early - through sprouts.

Seeds at the cereal is quite large, but still better not to cover them with earth, but carefully press into the substrate with a toothpick. Sprouts usually do not have to wait and appear in 7-10 days.

If you sow pennisetum at the end of winter, you can see flowering already in the year of sowing. Of course, in the first year it will not be as abundant and will not start until mid-September. But, nevertheless, the original bristly "ruffs" will be a wonderful decoration of autumn container compositions.

Pennisetum is quite a tall herb, so it can be used as a central accent of a caddy composition. Velvets, dwarf zinnias, stunted dahlias, petunias and other bushy annuals with large, expressive flowers will look harmoniously at the foot of the decorative grass. For successful overwintering of the Pennisetum in the garden it is recommended to bunch up the stems, dip them in peat and cover them with shoots. The colorful Pennisetum bluestem , also known as decorative or African millet, with purple leaves and monumental maroon inflorescences-cobs is also easy to grow from seeds. However, you should know that it is one of the most heat-loving species of pennisetum, and the plant will please the florist only one season.

4. Briza, or shake

Briza medium (briza media) is a common temperate meadow plant. This pretty weed is widely known among the people under the name "cuckoo's tears". But among florists the most widespread is briza big (briza maxima), which, most often, is used for making original winter bouquets.

6 unpretentious grains for container compositions
briza big (briza maxima). © Benjamin Shafir

The inflorescences of the breeze resemble small flattened drop-shaped earrings, which easily sway and shake with the slightest breeze (hence the name "shake"). Curtains of this grass look rather loose and simple linear leaves have no particular decorative value, so I prefer to plant the breeze so that its foliage masks the bushy plants.

As breeze bushes do not grow wide, for the greatest decorative effect they should be planted in a group, placing seedlings as close to each other as possible.

"Cuckoo's teardrop" can find its place in compositions with petunia, lion's green, heliotrope, verbena and other bright annuals in height from 20 to 40 centimeters. However, this small disadvantage is made up for by its incredibly fast growth and early flowering. Annual shagweed can be sown in a permanent place at the beginning of May. Sprouts appear quickly, and seedlings do not require special care. Flowering begins in July-August.

I would also like to mention a no less interesting variety of perennial briza medium Russels .The original cereal, in addition to cute inflorescences, is remarkable for its striped silvery-white foliage. The plant is unpretentious and cold-resistant, develops better in the sun, though it also tolerates a light penumbra. In height this shagweed reaches 60 centimeters together with flower stalks and it is better to plant it in garden flower beds, where the briza can overwinter without any shelter. Since 'Russels' shagweed is of hybrid origin, the herb is best propagated by shrub division.

5. Ozhika snow-white

The rare original herb is currently not widespread in gardens or on balconies, and the fault is not the external features of the plant or difficulties in growing the culture. The fact that many gardeners simply do not know about the existence of such a decorative plant, but otherwise would certainly want to settle obizika in the flower garden, as it once happened to me. Because there are many advantages of this amazing herb.

6 unpretentious grains for container compositions
Ozhika snow-white (Luzula nivea). © Shrubb

First, the plants form evergreen bumps that retain their foliage all year. Secondly, the grass with a rather exotic appearance is absolutely winter-hardy in the middle belt. And thirdly, Ozheba is one of the few grasses that will do well in the penumbra.

The original feature of snow white Ozheba is the presence of a fluffy coating on the edge of the leaf plate looking like hoarfrost or a light snow cover. In early summer the neat bushes are decorated with abundant tracery paniculate inflorescences consisting of small grayish-white flowers, which also remind snow flakes.

Since the Oziva is a close relative of the sedge, it also rather hygrophilous and feels well in the penumbra when moistened sufficiently, for example on the bank of a pond. However, the plants also grow well in moderate watering in sufficient sun, in combination with a variety of perennials or annual flowers in beds and flower beds.

The sedges usually have a decent height and bush diameter (45-60 cm). And for balcony boxes or small gardens, the hybrid dwarf variety Luzula Lucius from 15 to 30 cm in height will do. In container compositions the original herb will make harmonious combinations with balsam, ever-flowering begonia, mimulus and other low-growing annuals for light or semi-shady places. The hybrid can be propagated not only by splitting the bush but also easily grown from seeds. It can also be sown under the winter, or you can grow seedlings indoors by sowing in March. Small seeds are usually sold in pellets that can be easily pressed into the substratum with a wet toothpick. Subsequently in flower gardens obzooka gives abundant dense self-sowing which can interfere with growth of mother plants, therefore it is recommended to remove unnecessary sprouts. In winters with no snow the evergreen foliage can get damaged, but in spring the ostrich quickly recovers.

Charming "hare tails" can hardly be confused with any other representative of cereals. The main advantage of the plant is its unusual dense egg-shaped inflorescences, 3-4 centimeters long, blooming on long thin stems. At the beginning of flowering the spikelets are pinkish-gray, but later they change color to pure white. Florists often use such original inflorescences for winter bouquets.

6 unpretentious grains for container compositions
Hare-tail, or Lagurus (Lagurus ovatus). © forumhouse

Frequently, lagurus is grown exclusively as a dry flower, but the fashion for natural flower beds allowed to see in hare-tailer as a full-fledged participant of mixborders and container compositions. The plants are 30-50 centimeters high and their bushes practically do not grow wide, so to achieve the greatest effect in flower beds the harestail is planted in large groups, placing the plants in the group at a distance of 10-15 cm from each other. But I prefer to sow them in seedlings indoors at the end of March-beginning of April, so that charming "hare tails" already appeared in July.

Germination of seeds takes 10-12 days, the sprouts do not require special care. The hare's-tail prefers sunny places, poor soils, and moderate watering, and if necessary well tolerates drought.

In container flower beds the hare's-tail will be a vertical accent of the composition. If it is placed in the center of a container, surrounded by bright annual flowers (petunia, ever-flowering begonia, low lion's green, marigolds, etc.), branchy bushes will hide unattractive leaves of lagurus, and bright inflorescences will form expressive contrast with fluffy light spikelets.

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