October is the golden month in Texas, central Texas being the center of the golden glow. By this time of the year there has usually been a shower or two no matter how light to decrease the weight of the sun. Temperatures fall ever so slightly giving the cue to native and naturalized grasses alike that is it time to reproduce. Above are adapted grasses maiden grass on the left, purple fountain grass on the right. Salvia greggii, yellow bells, rough leaf daisy, myriads of asters, and liatris follow suit. The month gives human garden tenders a reprieve from worry and allows time to sit and harmonize with the plants and migrating pollinators.
Lindheimer muhly is certainly the star of the show this month. Above lindheimer is seen in a commercial planting in Williamson County. This pale blue-green, fine leaved grass provides a great soft texture in the landscape. Its shimmering tawney spikes of flower heads capture sunlight and wave it around like a sparkler.
Lindheimer muhly should be placed in the back of the garden as a fence or backdrop to the wildflowers and shrubs that flower in front of it the rest of the year. This grass also looks wonderful planted alone in large clumps of 5 or more. Lindheimer muhly grass is an appropriate choice in place of the unfriendly pampas grass common in commercial landscapes. Pampas grass leaves have sharp edges that make for mean paper cuts all over our forearms when we work around them. Lindheimer muhly on the other hand is soft and touchable. It is also easier to clean out, just take a flexible metal leaf rake to the center and rake out dead material at the end of winter. An adjustable fine tined leaf rake is even better.
The soft purple flower heads of gulf muhly are even sweeter. Like Lindheimer, gulf muhly is soft to the touch and lends soft texture to the garden. Gulf muhly is shorter than the taller lindheimer so you want to place it at the edges of the garden or in clumps with plants not much taller than the grass. Above gulf muhly is near the edge of a bed with a sea of silver ponies foot surrounding it. Gulf muhly’s blades are a deeper green and more mounding than lindheimer’s upright near-fountain shape. Both grasses can tolerate some dampness at their feet but not standing water. Where ever you place them, be sure you can see them in sunlight, backlighting in the fall really shows them off! Grasses are best shown off in mass plantings of three to five or more depending on the size of your landscape.