Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: A Thanksgiving Week Long Celebration

River Oats was the first native grass I added to the garden and I have never regretted it.
much earlier in the fall
It's a  clump-forming, upright, ornamental grass with wide bright green leaves and gracefully arching and nodding clusters of oat like flowers (spikelets) that emerge green then turn brown with age. Leaves and flower heads turn a rich tan in autumn and reddish-bronze by winter.  I think it's beautiful all year long, but I like to give it a good haircut by early February when the seed heads have fallen off.  Just cut it back to the basal rosette and new leaves will emerge when it warms up.
 even the softest of breezes will make the seed heads flutter
Good looking plants that also provide for garden critters are a must for my garden and River Oats has decent wildlife value.   Because it's wind pollinated there won't be any pollinators buzzing around the pretty spikelet flowers, but, I am happy to report that it's a host plant for several roadside skippers and a few butterflies.  That makes me happy!

River Oats gives my garden much needed contrast and texture almost all year.  It's a perfect companion for upright  Panicum virgatum 'Northwind',  the blue-grey needles of  Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl', native ex-asters and the purple Waiting Bench.
naturalized under oaks and hickory trees  with Hypericum frondosum, Penstemon calycosus and other native plants.
I use it as an accent plant in a raised bed near the front entrance, but, love that it has naturalized in my garden and mimics almost perfectly the oak-hickory woodlands found adjacent to a cedar glade. That was my goal when I planted the center garden a few years ago. It's still a golden brown and the hypericum is just about hyper colored!  It's especially nice to see on  a rainy day when the colors are intensified.

Chasmanthium latifolium will grow anywhere (Eastern USA, Zone 3 to 8); glades, stream banks, dry forests, shade and clay soil.  Please note I said, anywhere! Which brings us back to my "I have never regretted" planting it statement. When happy, it is a rampant self seeder and requires vigilance to catch the seedlings. Think beautiful ground cover with several seasons of interest. Think about this before you decide to plant it in your garden. Think about what you want from it...If you want a plant that will naturalize and create a large swath then this is the grass for you! If you don't mind keeping it in check, pulling out unwanted seedlings, then this is the  grass for you.  If you want a gorgeous grass with  almost year round beauty, then this is the grass for you.

 Personally, I never share this plant without first letting gardeners know that it is a marvelous ground cover and they'll have lots of dried seed heads for flower arranging.
Bright green leaves turn a coppery color after frost and eventually brown by winter
If you've decided you want to invite River Oats into your garden. Then do yourself a favor and let the seed heads and golden bamboo like leaves stand all winter long. You'll love the winter interest and the seed heads will dance in the breeze.
January 2011
  I can't wait to see them standing tall and golden in the snow.


Welcome to Clay and Limestone and  Part 2 of  the Thanksgiving week long celebration of wildflowers. All across America families and friends are making plans to gather for Thanksgiving dinner. It's our annual celebration of the "First Thanksgiving" when colonists celebrated arriving safely in the New World.

In my house, before the feasting begins, we all take turns sharing our feelings of gratitude. This year, I am especially grateful for the health and well being of my family; for loving and supportive friends; for rain that finally fell in Middle Tennessee; and, for wildflowers that bloomed no matter how horrid the weather has been. Please join me any time this week to share and celebrate the wonderful wildflowers that live and thrive in your gardens. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not. Please leave a comment and add your name to Mr Linky so others can pop over to see your Wildflower Wednesday post.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone."


  1. I love the color and movement of those river oats, Gail, and imagine there is sound too when the breezes blow the seedheads against each other. Beautiful photos, my friend!

  2. I have seen this wild river oats along the county road where we go birding a lot. I have been tempted to put them into my gardnen. Pretty pictures Gail. I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  3. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving Gail and that if you or your family are travelling that all will be safe.

  4. I do like the looks of the River Oats but think it best right now not to add them to my garden, until I get a few other things straightened out. For this Wildflower Wednesday, I posted about Boltonia.

  5. This grass looks so beautiful in your garden, Gail--I can just picture it dancing in the breezes. At our Master Gardeners annual potluck last week, they used the dried seedheads with dried hydrangeas as table decorations--so pretty!

    Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving, Gail!

  6. Beautiful in your garden against the purple bench. I would love to sit there with you and listen to the birds sing.~~Dee

  7. I adore Chasmanthium latifolium - in my colder garden hasn't seeded around. My only bugaboo is that I can't get its shivering seed heads to hold still for that perfect shot. Love the shot you did with the Asters - such great colours and forms together.

  8. Beautiful photos Dear Gail! Your River Oats offer a lovely texture throughout the seasons. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  9. Definitely one of my favorites! In addition to its beauty is how well it will tolerate some shade. Can get a little aggressive in some situations but easy to control.

  10. I love mine, but it's at the base of pine trees where it doesn't get the moisture it'd probably like, so it hasn't gotten completely out of control. Yet. I've heard of people bemoaning it's aggressiveness, but it's one of my favorite native grasses...but ask me again in five years!

  11. What a lovely grass. I have an increasing number of grasses in my garden as I love the movement they bring to the garden

  12. Gail, can you tell what month (and year) you posted those sweet posts about your mom?

  13. What a versatile grass this is! On our farm it grows only in the woods by the creek, but in wide swaths. I have added it to a couple of places in my garden and need to help it spread around to more. :) It's too pretty not to! Your pictures and words capture the enchantment of this native grass very well. Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!

  14. Beautiful shots of Chasmanthium. I wish I could share your enthusiasm for it, but my garden is too small, and I ended up ripping it out.

  15. I've been thinking about adding ornamental grasses - river oats look great!
    Beautiful photos - I can see that they are wonderful in all seasons!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Hi Gail,
    I was feeling sleepy after putting my post up, so I went and reworked the wooden train tracks for when our grandsons come over tomorrow.

    Then, I spent some time trying to figure out if what I call quacking grass or Northern Sea Oats is the same as yours. Quacking grass has a different scientific name, but from what I saw, I may actually have what you do.

    It is a prolific self sower, and I pull out lots of young plants. Like you, I warn others of its habit of self sowing before giving them plants.

    I enjoyed your lovely photos!

    I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. We did. The time went by too fast, though.

  17. I've tried that grass a couple of times and lost it.:-( It looks lovely, though. I'm showing just my native rose hips and link to my post that had more native plants blooming and fruiting for GBBD.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson