Plants that inspire passion, Part I

Rosa ‘Skyrocket’ at the end of the season. It grows next to a rain barrel.

Roses. I dearly love them, but I must be honest. The last few years haven’t been kind to roses in the Sooner State. The summer of 2012 wasn’t nearly as bad as 2011, but it was bad enough. Before September, the last rain we had was in early June, and it was only a trickle. Like the rest of the central U.S., we suffered under the unrelenting sun. July 2012 was our 6th driest.

Rosa ‘Julia Child,’ a Floribunda. Mine has never really taken off. However, fall is always her best time of the year.

So the roses are under tremendous stress as are the daylilies. Established daylilies, though, bounce back quicker even if they go completely dormant, but I must be careful of those that were planted in the spring. They are most likely to die. Now, it’s fall, and I planted numerous daylilies I’d bought and nurtured in pots all summer under the deck. To see those daylily faces, I’d say it was worth it all.

Miscanthus sinensis, maiden grass, has grown here for a very long time. It never reseeds in my climate, but I will need to dig up and divide it a bit in spring. That will be a chore.

Grasses inspire me with their grace and grand finish. How can anyone, outside of those who are in states where grasses can become invasive, not love them? Over the last few years, as I remove a rose here and there due to Rose Rosette Disease or declining health, I put a robust grass in its place. My fall garden is the better for it, and honestly, looks much more like a garden in north central Oklahoma might look. I find I am going back to the prairie at least where grasses are concerned. That doesn’t mean I only choose native ones though.

This is what Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ looks like in my garden in fall. During the heat of summer, the color is more straight purple.

I’m too excited about other favorites too, native or not. Muhley grass is a new passion, but I’m waiting to see if our love affair will overwinter here in Zone 7a. I know it can handle the heat. Pennisetums are all favorites, and while I love the Princess group, I also enjoy smaller P. setaceum ‘Fireworks.’ In the dwarf grasses, I have this crazy, fuzzy one sold as P. alopecuroides ‘Hameln.’ It isn’t, and I haven’t been able to identify it, so I can’t tell you its name. I keep splitting it to make more. Miscanthus sinensus ‘Little Zebra’ emerges with broad, horizontal stripes along its blades through spring and summer and tops out with golden tassles in September, October and beyond. All of the switch grasses, including Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind,’ ‘Shenandoah,’ ‘Heavy Metal’ and ‘Cheyenne Sky,’ are great plants once they get going. Each has its own growth habit and size. In my garden ‘Northwind’ is the tallest. Remember that with any perennial, including grasses, you need to wait three seasons to see it at its best. I’d like to try Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ one day because of its black flowers. For shade, I’m so excited about the Japanese forest grasses I could do a whole post on them alone. Perhaps, another day.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ Japanese maple (photo taken last year)
It’s just started turning yellow now, but by the end of the week, it will be glowing. Japanese maples with green foliage turn the most brilliant colors in fall.

Writing about the forest grasses reminds me of my favorite small tree, the Japanese maple. It is hard to grow anywhere in Oklahoma in recent years, but it is possible. I can’t speak for western Oklahoma though. Maybe if you had a wind break like a steel plate or something? Or, maybe stick with prairie plants and such that bend with the wind. I do love Japanese maples, but I must also grow them in places protected from heat, cold and wind. Not very good Oklahoma plants really, but passion often spurs us to do silly things. I think I’ve got ten or so now.

Dahlia ‘Lolo’

Bulbs and tubers, spring or summer blooming, are favorites because they give so much for so little. I write about bulbs a lot so I’m not going to expound too much on them today. If you want to read more about last year’s Bulb-a-rama, here are Parts I and II.  I am leaving the dahlias in the ground this fall. I planted them on the east side of the house, and I hope this is satisfactory. I’ve had smaller dahlias return many years before succumbing to our crazy weather.

For more plants that inspire passion in the garden, come back later this week and see Part II.



  1. I was outside earlier assessing my ornamental grasses. I have three different Panicum, ‘Shenandoah’, ‘Heavy Metal’, and ‘Dallas Blue’. Love Shenandoah best of all– though Dallas Blue is new, and newly moved to a better spot. Also have a couple Miscanthus– Little Zebra is the perfect size in my mind. Also have ‘Adagio’ (I think) it was unnamed.
    I love seeing the plants that inspire you.

  2. Dee I can feel the love in your post..I am adding more native grasses next year as I have many popular ones I love all year…I wish I could over winter dahlias.

  3. Deanne says:

    A lovely post! Fall gardens can be something so special and grasses are fabulous this time of the year. My roses were plagued with black spot this summer to the point where I’m thinking of taking out my rose garden altogether. Well until June rolls around again and they do their thing

  4. CurtissAnn says:

    Hey, honey-bunny. I love seeing bits of your garden and reading your wisdom and love of how to grow. Jim planted that ‘Fireworks’ grass this year. Thought it might die, as we’ve had extended dry periods again this year. But I saw it yesterday, and it looked lovely. I look forward to it getting big like yours. Love you.

  5. Carol says:

    I’ve just started to add grasses to my garden. I am late to the party but I’ll be adding more in the seasons to come. I look forward to part II!

  6. gail says:

    Dee, It’s a treat to walk the garden with you, that’s how I feel when I read your posts, as if we are walking and talking about our plants. Thank you and really, it is a lovely essay! xoxogail

  7. Jason says:

    The Pennisetum is gorgeous.

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