Grasses and Bulbs

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by Lisa K, Feb 27, 2003.

  1. Lisa K

    Lisa K Member

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    Two questions:
    I live in Lower Mainland BC and have a balcony garden on a hi-rise. I'm looking for an ornamental grass that is tall enough to block an unsightly post (1m tall) on the balcony. Any suggestions for what will work well in a container? Any special care instructions would also be appreciated as I've never grown grasses before.

    My bulbs are dominating my current pots. There is little room to plant anything else due to the size and quantity of the bulbs. Can I remove them from the pots when they've died back and store them in a basement storage locker until the fall?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    Grasses are an excellent solution to screening problems. Miscanthus sinensis (maiden grass) is perhaps the best "all-rounder," as there are numerous cultivars that display a variety of heights, leaf widths, variegations and flower characteristics. Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' forms dense, fountain-like clumps of narrow white-lined leaves that grow to around 1.5m. Miscanthus are deciduous grasses, turning brown as the weather cools in the autumn. While many people enjoy this look in the landscape (all russetty and warm), it can look a bit unkempt in the more intimate space of a balcony.

    An evergreen alternative is bamboo. The strong vertical stems are not as much a screen as the denser maiden grasses, but they tend to draw the eye. In containers, bamboos need a certain amount of maintenance, but nothing compared with grasses (imagine hauling several bags of straw down the elevator annually). Good choices for a sunny balcony in the Lower Mainland are a number of Phyllostachys species, including P. nigra (black stem bamboo), P. aurea (gold stem bamboo) and P. aureosulcata (yellow-groove bamboo). These are hardy and will tolerate growing in containers, but will eventually grow to 3 or 4m once established (cutting off stems to a prescribed height is not acceptable - it ruins the bamboo's graceful look).

    It is important to remember that growing plants in containers on a balcony can be a challenge because of drying winds. For example, going away for the weekend in summer can result in disaster (drying out) if precautions are not taken, such as installation of an automatic drip irrigation system. Also, the bigger the pot, the easier the maintenance and the better the growth (and the less likely that the pot will keel over).

    With respect to your bulbs, lift and store them only after the foliage has started to yellow. Dying foliage is a sign that your bulbs have started into summer dormancy.

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