It may be winter, but that does not mean outdoor gardening is impossible. The sun is shining, the breeze is light, and the snow has melted from most areas … it’s time to cut some grass … of the ornamental type.
From early summer through winter snows, taller ornamental grasses provide height, structure, and a calmly swaying accent. Even the shorter grasses provide interest and beauty through winter snows.
But the way to keep them looking good for the bulk of the year is to cut their light brown stalks down to within a few inches of the ground during late winter. This can be quite a chore, as the larger varieties can have thick woody stalks about an inch in diameter.
My method of attack is to tie the grass stalks together about mid-way up, then use a saw to cut thorough the stalks about 6 inches above the ground. It’s messy, but you can usually free the entire bunch without having all the individual stalks fly in a zillion directions. An alternate method is to hack away at the base of the tied bunch with a machete. For smaller stands or lower growing grasses, it’s relatively easy to grab a handful of stalks while snipping them off with good sharp clippers. Once the taller stalks are cut, neaten up the mound with hand pruners, taking care to pull out the remains of any dead stalks.
You may find the center of an established clump has died away, but if you add a little compost to this area in the spring, it will likely fill in with new sprouts. This annual attention will help grasses grow green and healthy, like one of my favorites, a variegated miscanthus.