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Retail Newsletter from Bluestem Nursery

Sept 2003

A Summer of Forest Fires

Our province of British Columbia (Canada) has just experienced a very hot and dry summer. We have not had any rain since June. Our area had a close call with a forest fire, but all is well here now. However, the people of Kelowna, BC, just 2.5 hrs drive away from us, had a true disaster where 238 homes, including that of a good friend of mine, were lost. Most of the magnificent old railway trestles in Myra Canyon, now part of the TransCanada Trail, were destroyed. Homes in Cranbrook and McLure were also lost. Our hearts go out to the thousands of people who have been affected by this summer of fires.

We would also like to give a huge Thank You to the firefighters who worked so hard to keep us and our property safe from the fires. Also to the many volunteers that have helped in so many ways. There is a silver lining to this ugly cloud, and that is that communities are pulling together to help those who have lost their homes. It is wonderful to see a re-kindling of the spirit of helping one's fellow man.

Feeding Ornamental Grasses

Do any of you have ornamental grasses that are floppy when they should be standing nice and straight? There are a number of possible reasons:

  • the grass is not receiving enough sun
  • the grass is receiving too much water
  • the grass was given too much fertilizer

Ornamental grass - Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
A hedge of Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' growing in very poor soil with very little extra water

Ornamental grasses for the most part prefer pretty spartan, or lean, conditions. I have a hedge of Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' growing in extremely poor soil, with very little water having been offered to it this summer, yet it looks magnificent.

Ornamental grasses grown on the lean side will have a longer life and be sturdier.

What kind of fertilizer should you use if you feel you must? Organic fertilizers release their nutrients slowly so are excellent for ornamental grasses. Well-rotted manure, leaf mold, and mushroom manure will all contribute to the health of the plant. Often the easiest fertilizer to obtain is to simply purchase a bag of organic fertilizer for lawns.

Exception: Miscanthus responds very well to fertilizer and should not be floppy if well fed.

Cool season grasses definitely should not be fertilized during hot weather because the nutrients push the plant to grow when it wants to shut down. Visit our April newsletter for a list of cool and warm season grasses.

The application of potassium in the fall is supposed to contribute to winter hardiness. Potassium (potash) is the last number on a bag of fertilizer.


Enviro-Turf - Low Maintenance Lawn Seed

Requires less mowing and less watering than standard lawn mixes. This summer my Enviro-Turf lawn stayed green despite high temperatures, no rainfall whatsover and watering only every 10 days or so. This mix produces a lawn that looks very much like a bluegrass lawn. In the mix are :

  • Creeping Red Fescue
  • Hard Fescue
  • Chewing Fescue
  • Perennial Ryegrass

Can be seeded until November

$7/pound (CDN)    $5/pound (US)

Contact us or visit this page for further information

Enviro-Turf Extra-Dry

Requires even less water and less mowing than Enviro-Turf. The Clover provides the nitrogen so that fertilizer is not needed and the yarrow will remain green in hot and dry conditions. This is a good mix for marginal areas. It is composed of:

  • Creeping red fescue
  • Chewing fescue
  • Hard fescue
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Strawberry clover
  • Yarrow

$21/lb (CDN)    $15/lb (US)

Contact us or visit this page for further information

To Order: Phone 250-447-6363      E-mail: order@bluestem.ca

Ornamental Grasses for Dried Arrangements

Depending on your climate, this may be an excellent time to harvest the inflorescence (flowers) of ornamental grasses for dried flower bouquets. Below is a list of grasses that make excellent cut flowers:

For dried arrangements the stems should be cut when the blossom is full but before the seeds are fully developed (so they do not drop off). That way you prevent the need for a fixative.

Try mixing substantial blossoms such as Miscanthus with the fine ones of Molinia or Panicum.

Panicum is wonderful cut as a fresh flower and mixed in a vase with Phlox paniculata. Then when the Phlox is finished simply allow the Panicum to dry for winter use.

Ever think of using some of these stems for outside decoration? Tie a bundle of Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' stems to a post. Miscanthus and Calamagrostis look wonderful added to your outdoor winter arrangements. My favorite combination is Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' with rosehips.

Bringing Container Grasses in for the Winter

I have 3 magnificent container specimens of Pennisetum 'Rubrum'. Jim gave me the following advice on how to keep them over the winter:

  • remove the blossoms
  • do not cut back until spring (cutting back will stimulate new growth and that is difficult for the plants at this time of the year)
  • keep on the dry side - not bone dry, but do not soak either
  • no fertilizer till spring
  • they need very little light - placement near a basement window would be fine


Q: What do you call a grumpy and short tempered gardener?

A: SnapDragon.


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