New little bluestem evaluations

‘Standing Ovation’ is a 3-4 foot tall selection from North Creek Nurseries, Landenberg, PA. Unfortunately sufficient quantities were not available for this cultivar to be included in the 2012-16 National Grass Trials. However, this grass is now in the running for a 2020 Perennial Plant of the Year. It’s always great to have a grass be named a PPA award winner! ‘Standing Ovation’ was first planted in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Grass Collection in 2012. Three of the four field planted plugs did not survive the first winter, but plugs planted in 2015 have since survived. The foliage color of ‘Standing Ovation’ is nice, with several shades of red, blue, purple and green. The form is not as consistent as we hoped for, see October 2018 images below.

‘Smoke Signal’ and ‘Twilight Zone’ were introduced in 2014 from Walter’s Gardens, Zeeland, MI and planted at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Grass Collection in 2014.

‘Twilight Zone’ has a unique foliage color, with silvery blue to dark purple tips on light blue foliage throughout the summer and fall. Growing to 3 feet, this selection is more upright and narrow. Unfortunately in the 2017-18 winter, 3 of 4 ‘Twilight Zone’ plants died in Minnesota. The form for this cultivar was variable, with the best features being the unique foliage colors. ‘Smoke Signal’ is a 3-3.5 foot tall upright plant with very dark red-purple foliage by late summer. No floppiness or minimal lodging with this selection, as well as impressive foliage color and good growth habit.

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‘Twilight Zone’

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‘Smoke Signal’

Walter’s also introduced ‘Blue Paradise’ which is marketed by Proven Winners. Of the 4 little bluestem discussed here, ‘Blue Paradise’ has shown the best plant form, growth habit, vigor, winter hardiness and foliage color. I do recall this plant being slow to grow initially, but once established its 3-3.5 height and summer blue foliage changing to dark red/purple is beautiful. The mid stature is a nice size for gardens, overall ‘Blue Paradise’ is a little bluestem to look for and to date is the best of a new group of little bluestem native grass selections.

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‘Blue Paradise’

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‘Undaunted’ Muhly flowering in Minnesota

IMG_1286Misty white flowers on ‘Undaunted’ muhly grass on top of a very brown Penn sedge planting on Sept 20, 2018 in Minnesota. Behind the grasses is a new arbor going up for shade plantings at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

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Pennisetum doughnut

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Fountain grass Pennisetum alopecuroides is not a reliably winter hardy grass in Minnesota. ‘Ginger Love’ is a flowering doughnut (photo above) this August in the Arboretum’s Grass Collection. Additionally this species can self-sow and grow in turfgrass, where it’s very hard to kill. New sterile forms of this species are being trialed at the Arboretum this summer, but they have yet to flower, and hardiness is unknown.

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Rust on many grasses in August

 

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Orange pustules on these Kentucky bluegrass blades is common in August. Sometimes your shoes may turn orange from walking on perennial ryegrass that has rust. While not usually fatal, rust can turn an entire plant tan or brown and weakens the plants. Keep foliage dry, avoid overhead watering and improve air circulation around plants to avoid rust. Big and little bluestem and ‘Karl Forester’ feather reedgrass also get rust.

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What’s wrong with these grasses?

Many yellow stems and flowers on Molinia and Sporobolus, stems come out easily from plant and with close examination, the stems are cut off…mice damage in the summer! Mice are living in these bunch grasses and having a good time. Can we set traps in a public garden or should we use bait? Mice are visibly seen scurrying from one plant to another….how many are there? Time to take action!

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Skippers on Bee Lawn

It’s great to see pollinators in the Arboretum Bee Lawn trials. Skippers were out on a recent bright warm sunny day:

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Carex ‘Straw Hat’

Carex ‘Straw Hat’ is a new selection of Carex pensylvanica, shown on June 27 left ,and May 11, 2018, right. Many early spring flowers with thick foliage.

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