Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fancy plants

Sunday morning was gorgeous in Des Moines. Sunny and 70s – perfect for a long brunch on the patio of Star Bar (only after we were turned away from Café di Scala’s Beatles Brunch because I totally didn’t think we’d be free for a leisurely brunch and so didn’t make reservations. It did smell good, though.) and a trip to a garden center to scope out some potential plants to pretty up the patio. While we were there, the sunny skies turned dark and unleashed some hellish rains, thus, I didn't capture everything with my handy camera phone - everyone knows water damage isn't covered.

We knew going in that we wanted some tall grasses for privacy and swayability, a shrub or two to anchor things down and hopefully provide some lovely flowers, and maybe a few smaller plants for ground cover. Before we started the deck demo, we uprooted about 15 hostas from the base of the stairs and they are currently waiting in pots in the shady part of the yard to be repurposed once we are done, so we really don’t need many fillers.

We made a list of everything we liked and will narrow it down in the next few weeks based on who will be happy where, budget and availability at the nurseries when we finally get to the point where we can plant in June. Here’s what made the cut:

Grasses/Small things that don’t flower:
Elijah blue fescue grass: We discovered right away that we loved the blue hue of this grass. We actually tried to start some Blue Fescue from seeds, but failed miserably, even in our awesome grow room. It’s safe to say a few clumps of this will make an appearance somewhere in that yard of ours soon. It stays short, so it will probably serve as ground cover around some of the showier plants.
Sapphire blue oat grass: A little taller, but it still has the blue color. We might use a few of these to create some layers around the paver bricks.
Feather reed grass: The biggest grass we liked, this one has the feathery oat tips and will grow huge and sway like a dream. Can’t wait to put a few clumps of these around the pavers!

Flame grass: Another big grass with feathery tops, but this one gets colorful each fall. Tough decisions must be made.

Silver Mound Artemisia grass: I’m not sure this is technically a grass, but it had a blue tinge and was interesting to look at.

Blue mist shrub: Hubs liked this one because the leaves were soft and velvety. I liked it because it had wild looking blue flowers and would spread out to be wide and low.

Dwarf Korean Lilac shrub: We’ll have a 4x4 area under the kitchen window and near the edge of the deck to fill and I really wanted to have a lilac there so we could smell the blooms when the windows were open. For a while, we thought this was the answer.

Dwarf burning bush: I loved this until I realized we already had one in the front. I don’t think we really need two, so it’s off the list.
Double pink peony shrub: The nursery we were at didn’t have white peonies, but if this is all I can find, this is what I’ll get! I love peonies.

Rosemary: We’ll flank the end of the pavers with some rosemary bushes. It will smell divine and provide us with convenient rubs for all grilling activities.

Punches of color:
Songbird Columbine: We need more punches of color and I’m thinking a variety of columbines will do the trick. Again, I tried to grow my own from seeds and just couldn’t. The songbird variety are huge flowers in a periwinkle shade, so I’m actually glad I’m a bad seed starter and couldn’t grow the tiny ones I had bought.

Random must haves:
Miss Kim lilac tree: I’ve never seen one of these before, but I have fallen hard for them. They are little ornamental trees with lilacs at the top and they smell wonderful and look so sweet. I’m definitely getting one for the space underneath the kitchen window!

Baskets: One side of the deck will have a simple trellis, so we’re planning on getting a basket or two for some color and privacy. The nursery had so many gorgeous options, but I think we’ll go for something simple, maybe in white or red.

Any favorites?
P.S. Gratuitous cat shot. Here is my homey, decked out in a Cards shirt from my mama. I like posing for pictures with him because he me look tan.


  1. My only suggestion is be very careful with all of that grass - we just dug up all of the prairie grass that was in our landscaping because it was taking over everything! It was impossible to keep it contained in one area looking pretty! Granted - I'm no green thumb, but wanted to give fair warning!

  2. Just to calm any fears from the grass~the ones that you are eying are not "invasive spreaders" except for the Flame teeters on invasive. I actually planted the Flamers so that they would spread and create a little barrier/privacy. Otherwise you've got good choices Alexson!

    The only other thing you might want to consider is some summer bloom~most of what you have shown blooms in spring. But that's the fun part~picking out the plants~not so fun planting em!

    Happy Planting!

  3. Hi! It's my first time here and I really enjoyed going through your blog. I have a feather reed grass too. Keep in mind that it will grow really big!

  4. Thanks for the grass advice! We're hoping to have a little barrier, so some crazy growth is fine by us.

    Katie - good point about adding summer blooms. I'd never have thought of that!

  5. where did you find the flame grass in des moines? i've looked all over!

  6. I found some at Iowa Outdoor Products - the garden center just south of Douglas on 86th. They had a great selection of grasses!

  7. Thank you so much -- both for the quick answer and the info -- I'm headed there now!


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