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Zoneworthy (4)




In a world of fuzzy plumes, sharp spikes, and dangling pendants, grasses rule the stage — the main characters of a multiseason show that often begins in the early days of summer.

On the list of grasses I couldn’t garden without (and it’s a mighty long list), somewhere near the top is prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) with a footnote that says “including all other Koeleria.”

Native throughout most of North America, Koeleria (not shown) is probably growing in a patch near you.

The form growing in my garden has bluer foliage than most, though even the typical forms have remarkably clean-colored leaves.

From dense tufts in late spring and throughout summer, the flower heads erupt like sky-bound fireworks in tawny and tan.

Depressingly, though all too common with zoneworthy plants, this species is remarkably unavailable in the trade beyond the commercial seed suppliers who raise most of their crop for ecological restorations.

The species germinates readily under moist, warm conditions, and those with a greenhouse or means of propagating from seed will find that the grass is easily propagated.

The plants in my garden were raised from seed I collected and sowed myself, a rewarding process that I continue to enjoy seasons after I first installed them in their prairie garden home.

If spring is the most celebrated season in the Iowa garden, summer is perhaps the most colorful, blazing from sunrise to sunset in bold swaths.

But one color that doesn’t blaze and isn’t celebrated nearly enough is silver.

In the garden, Fremont’s evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. fremontii) rues a silver day, flirting with its garden companions from emergence in May to disappearance in late fall (above).

This silver-leaved form of Missouri evening primrose serves up yellow flowers, sunny and tastefully lemony, on the eve of high summer — an eloquent way of saying that these flowers show up when it’s blisteringly hot out.

With deep taproots, they’re permanent once in place and not exactly amenable to division or transplanting.

Though I don’t have any specimens worth naming, I enjoy the undercurrent of pewter that moves through my rock garden each time the wind rustles through their foliage (and, thankfully for once, not due to powdery mildew).

(Read more about The Zoneworthy Garden)

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