Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
There really is a lot more to floral design than just flowers. Look around in nature, and you’ll see all sorts of suitable materials. Notice the flowering heads of grasses in particular.
By mid-summer we begin to see some of the ornamental grass heads beginning to form. Both annual and perennial species of these grasses are suitable for floral design.
Ideally, these stems are best cut just as the flower heads begin to expand. If you wait too long, the heads may shatter once they’re cut. Typically, these stems will last anywhere from a week or ten days to about two weeks as cut flowers. In addition, they can be used as everlastings.
Feather reed grass features lovely purple-red flowering stems. Over time, these stems will begin to fade. This is a particularly effective everlasting type of grass.
Purple Majesty ornamental millet is the perfect choice if you’re looking for an annual for the cut flower garden. This was an All-American Selection winner in 2003. This showy annual is also called bulrush millet or cattail. Initially, the leaves are green when they emerge, but over a period of weeks early in the growing season they begin to assume their beautiful purple color with a red streak down the center. This plant grows to about five feet in height with a spread of three feet. So do give it plenty of room in the cutting garden. Suitable as an annual for all areas of the U.S., this grass has colorful plumes with attractive seed heads. This is especially recommended for fresh flower arrangements.
Seeds of Purple Majesty are available from various sources, including Thompson & Morgan. This hybrid was bred at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. The original plant first showed up in some seeds that came from India, and was finally entered in the All-American Selections trials in the late 1990’s.
Other suitable grasses include foxtail barley. This species is also known as squirrel-tail grass. Reaching about two feet in height, this is a perennial that blooms the first year. For the cutting garden, I prefer to treat it as an annual. Considered a weed west of the Rockies, this has fruiting heads that are four inches wide. The graceful stalk is excellent as a cut flower. Because this species can become a serious weed in some areas, and actually poses a hazard to cattle that try to eat it, I wouldn’t recommend growing it in agricultural regions.
Hare’s tail grass is another annual that is ideal for cutting gardens. About a foot tall, this plant features a spike with dense, woolly heads that are several inches long. This makes an especially good everlasting.
There are many suitable kinds of grasses with the ones mentioned here intended as an introduction.
When it comes time to arrange cut grass stems, there is almost no limit to their uses. They look especially lovely in modern and minimalist styles in particular, such as Ikebana-like creations. They can be mixed and matched with cut flowers as part of traditional bouquets and arrangements as well. The only time I wouldn’t recommend them is if a family member is known to suffer from hay fever because the grass pollen can trigger an attack.