Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

September 2010

SwitchgrassIf you’re looking for an easy-care ornamental grass for summer, autumn, and winter interest, look no further than switchgrass.

It’s a versatile grass that thrives in full sun or part shade, and doesn’t seem to care too much about the soil it’s in. Switchgrass thrives in clay, doesn’t mind being wet from time to time, and looks great during drought.

There’s a lovely selection of switchgrasses to choose from. Some have lovely silvery-blue foliage in spring and summer; others turn burgundy or gold in autumn. Some stay short (around 3-4 feet) while others grow quite tall (‘Thundercloud’ can reach 8 feet in height!).

Switchgrasses attract birds and their fluffly, cloud-like seedheads are great for using in fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Switchgrass is hardy in Zones 5-9, though I’ve also seen it thrive in Zone 4 when given some winter mulch.

I like unusual plants, especially when they’re easy to grow. That’s part of the reason that plants with weird-sounding names (like lungwort or toad lily) catch my attention.

In the case of toad lily (Tricyrtis), I’m really glad I did. This is a super-easy perennial to grow that thrives in shade gardens and produces intricate blossoms in late summer and autumn — a time when few other shade plants are putting on much of a show.

When you hear the name toad lily you probably don’t expect something this beautiful (I suspect the name comes from the spotting on the flowers, like how toads have spotted backs). And when you see something this beautiful, you wouldn’t expect it to be so easy to grow. But toad lily surprises.

There’s a fairly wide range of varieties; ‘Tojen’ is one of my favorites — it has unspotted lavender flowers and grows larger than most. ‘White Towers’ is another top pick in my garden; it has pure-white flowers. And ‘Gilt Edge’ bears leaves ringed in gold (and ‘Moonlight’ bears chartreuse foliage that’s great for brightening up a shade garden).

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