‘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.
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.