Landscape Screen: Grasses

Bonnie Nowicki, MG

If we could look beyond winter’s bareness to visualize our gardens full and flourishing, what might we need to create a barrier or hide a bare spot? May I suggest grasses? Often overlooked for use as screening, low- growing ornamental grasses are ideal when you want an attractive barrier that restricts access, but doesn’t cut off views. Besides adding a softening element to the landscape, grasses add a delightful motion as they sway in the breeze. Most grasses are fast growing and require minimal water. They also can be divided and replanted. Cutting them back close to the ground every one to three years rejuvenates them. All are very cold hardy to zero degrees.

Please consider adding several of the following to your landscape:

Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is native to the southwest and Mexico. This versatile mounding grass has lush foliage, interesting green flowers that dry to tan, and height of four feet.

Mexican thread grass (Stipa tenuissima) is native to the Chihuahuan desert and South America. Its threadlike leaves make it a soft billowy grass growing to 18 inches in a clumping fashion. The foliage is golden in the fall.

My personal favorite is pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) – Regal Mist or Lenca. Native to Texas and Mexico its outstanding two to three-foot mounds show off airy pink flower plumes. Backlit by the sun during the fall season, it’s a spectacular sight to behold.

Good news from U of A’s Pima County Cooperative Extension Center (PCCE) located at 530 E. Whitehouse Canyon Rd. A lovely veteran’s garden is being created under the expert guidance of master gardener David Duffy, with lots of help from other master gardeners. It’ll comprise eight raised tank beds. Most will supply our local veterans with fresh winter and summer vegetables and several tanks will be earmarked for native ornamental plants. All will be handicap accessible.

Please stop by the center – a mere ten-minute drive from Quail Creek – check out our progress, ask gardening questions, and/or purchase starter plants and soil. Did you know PCCE is totally self-funded? An occasional grant is very helpful, but our sales and donations keep us alive. Please think of us master gardener volunteers as your community gardening educators. Phone 520-648-0808. Thanks for your support!