Hot Topics at the Shows

Andropogon gerardii 'Red October'
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ has deep, rich foliage color.

We recently finished up a whirlwind of trade shows, with MANTS in Maryland, CENTS in Ohio, and Green & Growin’ in North Carolina. You can read about our trade show adventures here. We also wanted to tell you which ornamental grasses generated the most buzz while we were there.

The Hot Topics

Several native grasses generated a lot of excitement, especially two new cultivars. Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ PP26283 sports beautiful burgundy and wine foliage during the growing season and turns fiery red once frosts begin. Its tall blooms tower over the foliage and provide opportunities for “see-through” designs in mixed plantings. Of course, it retains the toughness and adaptability of the species, including deer resistance and drought tolerance.

Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation'
The strong stems of Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’.

The other new native, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ PPAF, overcomes the flopping that some Little Bluestems experience. Even if it’s over fertilized or over watered, it won’t flop. And the foliage is a match for the beautiful kaleidoscope colors we see on other Little Bluestem cultivars. As more big landscape projects incorporate tough, adaptable, native grasses, the cultivars keep coming.

In addition, many people asked about the 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year™—Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’. We had dormant plants in containers, which highlighted their upright habit and beautiful seed heads. ‘Northwind’ has been around for years, and it remains one of our favorite Switchgrasses.

At MANTS and Green & Growin’, we had containers of Carex oshimensis EverColor® ‘Everillo’ that attracted a lot of attention. Everillo’s bright foliage, vigor, and winter interest made it appealing for many. Here in central NC, it has remained evergreen in spite of the unseasonably cold temperatures. The attendees at CENTS wished it were hardy beyond Zone 7, but they were eager to try it as a container plant.

Carex 'Everillo'
Everillo Sedge made a big splash at the shows.

Customers at Green & Growin’ were happy to see Cortaderia selloana ‘Blue Bayou’. The size of the species is too large for many yards, but Blue Bayou’s dwarf, arching habit make it perfect for smaller landscapes. It also offers a striking focal point. The dusty blue foliage and abundant plumes set it apart from other compact cultivars.

Another hot topic? Native sedges. We’ve seen increased interest in these low-key workhorses, and people at all the shows were interested in hearing about them. North American Carex are a diverse group, so there’s a sedge to fit most landscape situations. They provide a low-maintenance backbone for mixed plantings, meadows, and prairie plantings. They’re also alternatives to turfgrass, especially for shady sites. Shannon Currey talked about native sedges during her presentation at the OSU Short Course, as did Scott Epps at the Green & Growin’ education sessions (to see more about their presentations, click here).

Carex pensylvanica as lawnlet
Carex pensylvanica, a native sedge, creates a lush groundcover for shady sites. Photo courtesy of Dale Batchelor, who calls this a “lawnlet.”

We love the plants we grow. So it’s only natural that one of the joys of trade shows and presentations is talking with people about them. Thanks for listening!

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