Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Ornamental Hideout

My little girl loves the inside of her playroom closet. At three and a half, she's figured out that she can play with her dolls and animal toys in there without her one-year-old little brother swiping them. I remember making a little hideout in my bedroom closet as a kid, complete with a pillow and blanket, flashlight, and books. Just like adults, I think kids too have an inate need to seek solace from the often over-stimulating environment or over-scheduled day.

This year, I plan to create a natural hideout for the kids using ornamental grasses. By selecting upright varieties of grasses (those that grow relatively straight up as opposed to a fountain-like shape) you can create a special place for the kids that looks great in any landscape.

Calamagrostis arundinacea

There are many different types of ornamental grasses, but here are a few that have an upright form, are attractive, low maintenance, and grow well in our area in sun to part shade.  

Calamagrostis arundinacea 'Karl Foerster'  Also known as Feather Reed Grass, this plant keeps it's columnar form through winter. The foliage grows to 2-3 feet tall and flower stems to 5 feet in height. The narrow, tight habit creates a 18-inch wide clump.

Panicum vergatum

Panicum vergatum 'Northwind'  The steel blue color of the foliage make this Switchgrass a standout in the garden. The kids will love running their hands along the fine yellow blooms in summer. The blooms can reach 6 feet, and the plant will spread to 2-3 feet wide at maturity.

Molinia caerulea 'Moorhexe'  This Purple Moor Grass is a real showstopper in autumn when it turns yellow, to orange, to red. It prefers a site that is moderately moist, and can reach 4 feet at maturity. 

Molinia caerulea
Remember to choose the right plant for the right spot, considering sun and water requirements. Plant the grasses in a wide circle that can accommodate a child and a few friends. Throw down some mulch to reduce mud after a rain. Lay down a blanket inside the circle for the kids, then take a break in the garden while the kids enjoy their own space. And when the kids aren't there, know that your ornamental grasses are performing a special function by providing natural shelter and food for birds.

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea and look forward to seeing how you do it. We are in the process of adding ornamental grasses to our preschool playscape, and this term my goal is to create a bean teepee and a passionfruit arbour with the kids.