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Ornamental grasses add movement, height and color to your gardens

Blue-green long strands of mounding gasses, known as Blue fescue or festuca glauca grow in a garden.
Ornamental grasses can add height, color and movement to garden spaces and lawns. The key is knowing which type - warm weather or cool weather grasses - you have and what will grow best.

Who doesn't love a low-maintenance plant that adds color, height and movement to the landscape and garden?

Ornamental grasses fit that bill and with just one simple caveat - you need to know if the plants are warm season ornamental grasses or cool season ones.

Another bonus: because ornamental grasses produce a flower head and a seed pod, they'll provide four seasons of interest. That means, color, height and movement in spring and summer and even through the colder seasons, their blades will poke out of the snow and sway in winter breezes.

Cool season grasses, like the feathered reed grass or blue fescue, love cool weather. This plant look beautiful in the landscape and will stay green all season long.

Warm season grasses, like fountain grass, switchgrass and maidenhair grass, provide more drama in the landscape and can sometimes grow eight or 10 feet tall.

Warm season grasses are great to add to areas where you can plant bulbs, like daffodils and tulips, around them.

And early-blooming and early-growing plants like geraniums or bleeding hearts can be planted nearby to help hide the grasses when they haven't greened up yet.

Also, if you plant ornamental grasses and then think twice about its current location, once the grass starts greening up, you can dig it up, divide it and replant in another location.

Q: I'm convinced I have snake worms on my property! The coffee-ground-like castings are all over the ground. I'm wondering what to do with that yard waste. In the past, I have always taken it to Addison County Solid Waste Management in Middlebury. What do you think? - Patricia, in Bristol

A: Snake worms are in the soil and moving worm-infested soil is how they spread around but you should be fine bringing any yard waste, plant stems and things like that to the solid waste district to be composted.

And here's a technique to determine if you have jumping worms or snake worms in your soil: Take a third of a cup of mustard seed, add it in a cup of water and boil it. Pour the mustard and water mixture over any soil where you suspect there are any snake worms.

If they are, in fact, snake worms, the mustard mixture will make them come to the surface where they will furiously begin wiggling around. From there, pick them up and discard of them away from any other soil.

UVM Extension has a lot of helpful information about identifying and mitigating snake or "jumping" worms.

Q: I want to plant a small tree and then beneath it, plant various annuals and perennials in a really large galvanized container in a shady spot. I'm thinking of an evergreen tree. Do you have any suggestions for this climate? - Barbara, in Norwich

A: A couple of dwarf evergreens could grow well under those conditions, like the dwarf Alberta spruce or for something a bit different, try a tall Juniper compressa. This Juniper grows pencil-straight, about four or five feet tall, which would leave room around its base plant flowers in the galvanized container.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.