by High Country Gardens

Pink Flamingo' and 'Blonde Ambition' at the Placitas, NM community library.
Ornamental grasses should be the highlight of any fall landscape. Few plants can provide so much beauty for so little effort. There are two types of ornamental grasses; warm season and cool season. Cool season grasses grow most actively in the fall and spring with flower spikes coming in late spring-early summer. Warm season grasses wake up in the late spring, grow most actively through the summer and bloom in the late summer and fall.   I always recommend that gardeners remember to include both groups in their designs. A couple of my favorite ornamental grasses are two native warm season growers, ‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue Grama grass and ‘Pink Flamingo’ Muhly grass.   ‘Pink Flamingo’ is a garden discovered hybrid between Muhlenbergia lindheimeri and [caption id="attachment_1099" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="'Blonde Ambition' sunbathing in Phoenix"][/caption] Muhlenbergia capillaris. Here in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, it comes into flower in early September. The tall 5 to 6 ft. showy pink flower spikes wave in the breeze over the tops of its thin green foliage. It is cold hardy to at least -10°F (USDA zone 6a) and loves a long, hot summer.   ‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue Grama is a High Country Gardensintroduction. A distinctive form of our native Blue Grama, this giant blonde is unique among the ornamental grasses with its flag-like chartreuse flowers that age to golden yellow seed heads by fall. Cold hardy to -30°F (USDA zone 4a), ‘Blonde Ambition’ is also very heat tolerant. It blooms in mid-July and holds its seed heads until spring.   [caption id="attachment_1100" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pink Flamingo' makes a cloud of pink."][/caption] The photo of the two together shows this pairing in October, in full glory after a brutally hot, dry summer here in NM. Where possible, plant ornamental grasses so the afternoon sun shines through the flower spikes. It adds great drama to the garden at day’s end.   Here is a photo of  #1 (“gallon”) ‘Blonde Ambition’ plants growing in a Phoenix, AZ wholesale nursery where the plants were grown in full sun at day temperatures over 100°F.  You can really see its uniformity and showy flowers.   For hot summer, mild winter areas of TX , the Southwest and interior CA, fall is a great time to plant these and any other ornamental grasses so you can enjoy the magnificent display of grassy colors and textures next fall.