Winter doesn’t stifle golden acorus’ color

Photo by Dee Bishop

Our gardens contain many different species of decorative grasses. Take this golden acorus (Acorus graminius ‘Ogon) for instance. You can't find more bang for your buck. As you walk up to the IDEA Garden from any direction, this grass gleams a rich bright gold.

Acorus grass, known as Japanese sweet flag, is a lovely small grassy plant that will grow in poorly drained soil as well as regularly watered garden beds. From a 4-inch pot, expect a spread of about 2 feet in three years. It doesn't grow fast enough to become a pest. This plant gets a scant 10 inches high at best, so it makes a lovely front-of-the-row planting. There is an even smaller variety, A. gramineus pussilius, which only grows 2 to 3 inches high. A variegated form that is green and white also is lovely. They will grow in a fair amount of shade, but color up better with more sun. Rich moist soil is how they like it.

We were working in the garden yesterday in the gloom of an overcast winter day, ever wishing for even a bit of sunshine when there it was — our bright and sunny acorus grass. How beautiful! We were busy cutting back the last of the perennials including the acorus. After winter freezes and thaws, the leaves look a bit tired and ratty, so we whack them off to the base, which will allow all the new growth to come out and give us another year of golden beauty.

Hard to do? Yes, but necessary. Almost all perennials that give color in winter need a bit or a lot of clipping to keep them pretty. It is hard when color is at a premium, but if they are not cut back, we would have to look at faded ratty grass all next year. All ornamental grasses need to be cut back once a year in late winter, and this is just about the last call to do so. When new growth begins, clip it off and you have to look at squared off leaves all year.

Take a weed whacker and cut it down to within an inch of the ground. If you have really large bunch-type grasses, wrap a rope, string, wire or even a bungee cord around them and get out a chain saw or weed whacker and cut them off to the ground. You will not have all that dead grass intermixed with the new growth and your grass will look ever so much better.

Look for acorus grass in any nursery or garden center. Grab a few pots to add color to your plantings. Color like this is hard to come by in the throes of winter, so if you can't have sunshine from the sky, take it from the ground.


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