I traveled to Denver this past week to check the plants being grown for the High Country Gardens’ fall catalog. And as part of my trip, I was able to visit several of my favorite garden venues in Denver. I spent a morning at Denver Botanic Gardens and a few hours one afternoon at Kendrick Lake Park in Lakewood (a Denver suburb). But that wasn’t enough, as I also spent several hours viewing the newly designed and planted gardens around the visitor’s center at Denver Botanic’s Chatfield growing grounds in Littleton (another Denver suburb). Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden put their expertise to the test at Chatfield. And this, the second year of growth for the plantings, shows that their efforts are a huge success.
All the gardens were a joy, with many colorful plants and combinations in full color. But what I like most about late summer gardens are the ornamental grasses. And these grasses really bring out the best in a garden providing contrast, grace and movement to complement their companion perennials. Sorghastrum (Indian Grass), Sporabolus wrightii (Giant Sacaton Grass), Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed), Sporobolus airoides (Alkali Sacaton) and Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition (Blue Grama Grass) were all looking their best. And in another month, the gardens will reignite by the numerous varieties of early fall blooming Miscanthus (Chinese Maiden Hair Grass).
But I have to say that Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass stole the show at all of the gardens with its attention getting, see through veil of horizontal blonde seed heads dancing in the breeze. This grass truly is completely different from all the other ornamental grasses by virtue of its unique chartreuse flowers that ripen to Nordic blonde seed heads.
And the light color of the flowers and seed heads are superb at bringing attention to itself and all the plants around it. Like many of the larger grasses, Blonde Ambition takes two growing seasons to reach mature size, so I always recommend that it be fall planted to give a jump on reaching maturity.
You can see from the photos of the Denver area gardens, Blonde Ambition’s versatility in the gardens and landscapes, used as a specimen or better massed in groups of three or more plants.
Text and photos by David Salman