Table of Contents

Overlooked Native Plants To Add Visual Interest

Uncovering the Underrated Gems of the Landscape

As the leaves begin to turn and the air takes on that crisp, refreshing quality, I can’t help but feel a surge of excitement. You see, this is the time of year when native grasses truly come into their own, putting on a show that’s nothing short of mesmerizing.

Yet, despite their undeniable beauty and importance to the ecosystem, these unsung heroes of the plant world often go overlooked. It’s a shame, really, because native grasses have so much to offer, from their graceful movements in the wind to their striking fall foliage and vibrant seed heads.

But fear not, my fellow garden enthusiasts! Today, I’m here to shine a light on some of these overlooked native plants and reveal how you can use them to add a touch of visual magic to your outdoor spaces. So, grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage, get cozy, and let’s dive in!

Grasses That Captivate

Let’s start with one of my personal favorites, purple top grass (Tridens flavus). This delightful little grass caught my eye the first time I saw it, with its lime green fountains of foliage that simply glow in the evening light. But the real showstopper is the way it transforms in the fall, producing multiple 5-foot-tall stems topped with dangling clusters of purple-red seed heads. It’s like Mother Nature has decked it out in its finest party attire!

Another stunner is yellow Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). This stately grass is tough and adaptable, thriving in a variety of soil types, but it truly shines in full sun. In the fall, it produces 4 to 6-foot-tall golden-yellow plumes that float above its striking blue-green foliage. And just when you think it can’t get any better, the blue-green leaves mellow to a gorgeous copper-tan in the winter, adding depth and interest to your landscape year-round.

But wait, there’s more! Have you ever heard of lopsided Indiangrass (Sorghastrum secundum)? This wispy bunchgrass has the most delightful quirk – its showy 4 to 5-foot-tall flower clusters lean to one side, hence the name. The tawny lopsided florets are highlighted by yellow anthers and tipped with long, twisted awns, creating a truly unique and captivating display that lasts for about 2 to 3 weeks.

And let’s not forget about the lovegrasses – both purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) and Elliott’s lovegrass (Eragrostis elliottii) are absolute showstoppers. These low-growing, clump-forming grasses (only 1 to 2 feet tall) are salt-tolerant and adaptable to many soil types, making them versatile additions to any landscape. In the fall, they burst forth with clouds of delicate, wispy blooms in shades of pink and white that dance delightfully in the breeze.

Understated Beauties

But native grasses aren’t the only overlooked gems in the landscape. Let’s take a closer look at some other native plants that deserve a bit more love and attention.

One of my favorites for its year-round color is chalky bluestem (Andropogon virginicus var. glaucus). This graceful species produces leaves and stems that are a brilliant bluish-white, forming tight clumps of short foliage that grow 3 to 4 feet tall. In the fall, those bluish-white leaves take on purple-red highlights, creating a stunning contrast when planted alongside other grasses or fall-blooming perennials.

And then there’s river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), with its unique and interesting seed heads. This adaptable native grass produces lime-green foliage and arching stems 2 to 3 feet tall, adorned with dangling seedheads that sway beautifully in the wind and make a lovely rustling sound. As the seasons change, the seedheads mature to a golden bronze, providing visual interest well into the winter months.

But wait, there’s more! Have you ever heard of native prairie plants? These unsung heroes of the landscape are making a comeback, thanks to the hard work and dedication of forward-thinking grounds crews like the one at the University of Kansas.

Bringing Prairie Power to the People

As I learned from the article on the KU grounds crew, less than 4% of the original 170 million acres of native prairie that once stretched across the central United States remains intact today. But the good news is that much of what has survived resides right here in Kansas, and these hardy plants are getting the recognition they deserve.

The KU grounds crew, led by landscape manager Joe Fearn, has made it their mission to incorporate more native and adapted plants into the university’s landscape, creating an environment that “speaks to the state’s prairie roots.” And they’re not just randomly scattering these plants – they’re using intentional design principles to create a cohesive, visually stunning landscape that blends the wild and the manicured in perfect harmony.

One of the areas I’m particularly excited about is the space between Chalmers, Marvin, and Lindley Halls. This garden is a true testament to the power of native plants, filled with a captivating balance of groomed and wild growth. Instead of the typical pear trees and mulch, you’ll find a rotation of textures, movements, and evergreens that invite students to pause and take a well-deserved break between classes.

And the best part? These native plantings require minimal maintenance, with the team only needing to mow them in the spring. No constant watering, no heavy-duty pruning – just let nature do its thing and enjoy the show. As senior landscape worker Katherine Stringer put it, “Native gardening can be a slow payoff, but afterward the plantings will look much fuller and the maintenance needed will be less time-consuming.”

Embracing the Beauty of Imperfection

As the KU grounds crew has discovered, there’s a delicate balance to be struck when it comes to landscaping. On one hand, you want to maintain a certain level of order and visual appeal to attract students, faculty, and visitors. But on the other, you don’t want to fight against the natural charm of the landscape – that’s where the true magic lies.

That’s why Fearn’s approach is so refreshing. He’s not trying to impose his will on the land; instead, he’s working with it, enhancing its natural beauty through intentional design and the strategic use of native and adapted plants. As he so eloquently put it, “You can’t have a prairie on Jayhawk Boulevard, but you can evoke that. You can have vestiges of prairie. You can have something with proper landscape design principles. You can utilize those to convey an idea.”

And that’s exactly what the KU grounds crew is doing, not just on the Jayhawk Boulevard, but across the entire 1,200-acre campus. They’re creating an environment that invites people to slow down, connect with nature, and appreciate the beauty of imperfection. Whether it’s the vibrant tulips blooming in the spring or the captivating native grasses swaying in the fall breeze, there’s always something to capture the eye and soothe the soul.

The Power of Community Collaboration

But the KU grounds crew isn’t working in a vacuum. They’re actively collaborating with students, faculty, and the broader Lawrence community to bring their vision to life. From working with sustainability-focused organizations on campus projects to engaging with the public through social media, they’re building a sense of shared ownership and pride in the university’s landscape.

And it’s not just about aesthetics, either. As sophomore environmental studies student Sarah Reuben-Hallock pointed out, the grounds crew’s work is “pivotal not only for the present but also for the future sustainability of our campus.” By incorporating more native plants and reducing the reliance on thirsty, high-maintenance turfgrass, they’re creating an ecosystem that’s better equipped to withstand the challenges of climate change and support the local wildlife.

Embracing the Overlooked, Embracing the Future

As I reflect on the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained from these sources, I can’t help but feel a sense of renewed appreciation for the overlooked native plants that grace our landscapes. From the mesmerizing native grasses to the understated beauties like chalky bluestem and river oats, there’s a whole world of visual interest waiting to be discovered.

And what’s truly inspiring is the way the KU grounds crew is leading the charge, transforming their campus into a living, breathing testament to the power of native plants. By embracing the beauty of imperfection and working in harmony with the land, they’re creating an environment that not only delights the senses but also supports the local ecosystem and fosters a deep sense of community.

So, as you plan your next garden or landscaping project, I encourage you to look beyond the usual suspects and explore the wonders of native plants. Who knows, you might just uncover your new favorite addition to the Today’s Gardens family. After all, the future of our landscapes lies in embracing the overlooked, the underappreciated, and the truly remarkable.

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

Contact Us

General Contact :
[email protected]

Information :
[email protected]

Subscribe For Great Promo

Join with our subscribers and get special price,
free garden magazine, promo product announcements and much more!

© All rights reserved 2022