We have a couple of nice-looking medium-sized terra-cotta pots situated on either side of our patio. The pots are in front of two columns that provide the “entrance” onto our outside dining area. The pots receive full sun year ‘round and have the unfortunate case of being placed atop cobblestone that truly heats up beyond words in the summertime. Just ask me about the mistake of walking around the pool barefoot in mid-August! The only relief this area has is that the pots are placed in iron stands and so they do not receive 100% of the ambient heat from the stones beneath.
The pots are in a high traffic area and thus, we struggled with finding something to grow within them that could take both the heat and the side-swiping of passersby. One year we planted periwinkle and while we needed to water it almost daily in the summer, it actually did fairly well. Then, we made a huge mistake one spring and tried orange dahlias. They were the perfect color for our patio and were indeed gorgeous for a while – until the Texas summer burned them to a crisp! Last year, we planted purple fountain grass and it was a big hit although it eventually got a bit too tall for the size of our pots. The purple fountain grass accented the columns very well in the meantime, however, and when folks walked by there were no blooms to be knocked off, which was a bonus. With the grass being a success for most of the year, we decided ornamental grass was probably the best solution for this tough, potted plant location. We needed to find a smaller variety and preferably, a perennial.
This is when we started looking around the landscapes of the freeways in the north Texas area. The various state and local highway organizations are really good sources to look to for tough, but attractive, plantings that will naturally thrive in your area. This is when we discovered Pink Muhly Grass.
Pink Muhly Grass is a compact ornamental grass that has an attractive clumping growth pattern. It sends out rays of green spikes of new blade growth while the older blades turn a bit hay colored and cascade downward. The overall look of Pink Muhly Grass fit our outside décor very nicely (which is 1/3 Texan, 1/3 Mexican and 1/3 tropical.) I tease my husband from time to time as I’d like to focus on one theme eventually. He claims since all three of the above have borders with a beach we already have one theme!
At any rate, the Pink Muhly Grass gives us the desired look to our exterior dining area. It took the heat very well all summer, yet still grew to the suggested 3.5 height and width range. And I can attest it has been quite drought tolerant. A bonus is that it is a perennial to those of us in Zones 6 and warmer so we can enjoy the grass in subsequent years.
The only issue we had this first year is that one of our plantings received a little more foot traffic surrounding it than the other, so quite a few of its erect spikes became bent or broken. We even went so far as to switch the pots around to see if the “damaged” one would sprout some new growth and catch up to being as perfect as the other one. It indeed sprouted new growth, but it remained just a tad more unkempt than the other. Don’t get me wrong – it didn’t look bad, its form just didn’t look “as good”.
Well, I had actually forgotten about the pink part of the name of the Pink Muhly Grass until about three weeks ago when the unkempt plant suddenly began to bloom. I don’t think my pictures below capture its color very well, but the plant is amazingly frilly and vibrantly pink these days – as though there are tufts of pink clouds atop it.
The other, “perfect”, plant? Well it isn’t doing anything yet! It has a fine form but there are no signs of blooms on it. What is interesting is the two plants’ environments were identical except for one thing – the unkempt plant received more people brushing up against it, resulting in bent or broken stalks here and there. And guess where the blooms are originating? You guessed it – from the damaged blades of grass!
I must admit I could find nothing in writing that states Pink Muhly Grass will bloom more heavily on injured stems, but that indeed seems to be the case with our particular plant. I still have faith our “perfect” plant will eventually bloom, although perhaps not for as long or as brilliantly as the distressed one. And next year, I certainly will not be so obsessed about the grasses looking identical or worried about them being located in a high traffic location.
In conclusion, I can’t help but think of several metaphors applicable to this experience. I think the most relevant of these are:
- Sometimes the greatest fruits are borne of those who have experienced the deepest injury.
- Never give up, no matter your circumstances or setbacks, for everyone has the ability to achieve great things.
Until next time,
(As a side note, it is recommended that you leave intact the resulting pods from the blooms of Pink Muhly Grass to provide a natural seed source for winter birds in your area. Afterwards, you can cut Pink Muhly Grass close to its base, as rapid new growth forms predominantly in the springtime on this grass.)