Amazing Ornamental Grasses for your Garden

Ornamental grasses provide texture, movement, and seasonal color to gardens and thrive in our Colorado conditions.  Below Eve describes the three main types of grasses and gives detailed descriptions of Harlequin’s Gardens’ stock of ornamental grasses. 

This is the time to give your tomatoes, and other warm-season veggies, a boost of fertilizer.  But before you do so, read below about the specific type of fertilizer you should utilize!

This Sunday Hazel Dell mushroom grower, Zach Hedstrom, will lead a mushroom hunting field trip in the mountains for the second part of his Foraging for Rocky Mountain Mushrooms class.  Registration and pre-payment of $15 are required.    
Call 303-939-9403 to reserve your seat!


Now is this time to give your tomato plants a fertilizer boost to help them produce more and better full-size tomatoes.  Utilize a low nitrogen, high phosphorous and potassium fertilizer that is organic and slow release.  This will help provide energy to your plant for fruit production versus green leafy material.  Our friend and masterful gardener, Frank Hodge, says ” ALL flowering plants, flowers and vegetables alike, need more phosphorus and potassium, and less nitrogen in order to make better, bigger, and more blossoms.  You may double the number of blossoms on your plants just by adding these nutrients every other week.”

Some of the ideal fertilizers we offer for this include Age Old Bloom (5-10-5), Age Old Fruit Finish (2-10-20), and Neptune Harvest Rose & Flowering Formula (2-6-4).


Harlequin’s Gardens is looking for a positive, creative, flexible, tech-savvy person with excellent skills in communication and team-work to start soon.  Duties include data entry, social media, bill-paying, label and sign-making, advertising and promotion, supply orders, staff and customer support. Must be able to work at least one weekend day. Ideally, the candidate should be physically fit, able to lift 40 lbs, and have some familiarity with plants and gardening.  This is a full-time, year-round position.

Please send your resume to


Ornamental Grasses are great companion plants and there are lots of great reasons to use them in your garden or landscape: They are dynamic, moving in the wind and playing with light; they can take the place of a shrub, especially in a narrow planting bed and along pathways. Taller grasses are good for screening in narrow spaces. Grasses enhance any wildlife-oriented, native or naturalistic landscape. Some are suitable in more formal plantings as well. Grasses are great for disguising utility boxes. Deer generally don’t eat them.  Come by to take a look at our selection of ornamental grasses and those established in our display gardens!

Harlequin’s Gardens sells “Clump Grasses” (not spreading or sod-forming). Here Eve explains the distinguishing features of Cool Season, Warm Season, and Evergreen grasses, and gives great descriptions of the most well-known of these grasses.

Cool Season:

Already up a

nd green by March and make active growth in cool weather until it gets hot. They can be kept green through summer by watering, but otherwise they go dormant until the fall, when some of them may begin growing again. Most bloom in June, but a few wait until late summer. Because they begin growing so early in the year, they are subject to being demolished by rabbits. People with resident rabbit populations should choose Warm Season grasses instead. Cut grasses back to 2-3” inches tall before they start their active growth, so light can penetrate the entire clump. Eve does this in February.

Warm Season:

Most people grow warm season grasses in this area. Many of our native grasses, and many of the most popular grasses for our area are Warm Season grasses. Wait until early April to cut back warm season grasses. Cut as low as you can, ideally 2-3”, so light can penetrate into the entire clump.


Remain mostly green through the year. Do not cut back. To clean them up in spring, gently ‘comb’ out old dry blades with a hand rake.


Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’s’ (Karl Foerster’s Feather Reed Grass)

The most popular and over-used ornamental grass, for good reason. Medium sized (to 4’ tall), very erect form, easy to grow and highly adaptable to everything but shade, very durable flower/seed heads remain attractive all summer, fall and winter. No fall foliage color. Cut down in early February. Try to avoid plantings that look like rows of soldiers standing at attention! Hardy to Zone 4.  In stock now! 

Calamagrostis brachytricha (Korean Feather Reed Grass)

To 3’ or 4’ tall, with a graceful fountain-like or mounded shape, and waits until the end of the summer to flower. Can take some shade. Very pretty, with pinkish plumes that dry tan. No fall color. Plant Select. Should be used more. Hardy to Zone 4. (Photo credit: Plant Select.) 

Festuca glauca, F. thurberi (Blue Fescue)

Evergreen. This year we carry F. glauca ‘Boulder Blue’, a 10”-tall selection with very blue foliage, good form, hardiness, longevity and drought-tolerance. We also have F. ovina “Sea Urchin”, smaller, finer texture, good for rock gardens or Asian-style gardens, and Festuca thurberi, which is native from 5,000’ to 10,000’ elevation and is nearly evergreen, to 12” tall. Hardy to Zone 4. (Photo credit: High Country Gardens.)   In stock now!

Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat or Avena Grass)

 A much sought-after modest-sized evergreen grass with powder-blue blades, and that has some shade tolerance. It forms an open, symmetrical mound of foliage from 12” to 24” high, and a bit wider. Bloom stalks add another 12 to 18”, and provide interest for several months. Hardy to Zone 4. (Photo credit: High Country Gardens.)  In stock now! 

Hierochloe odorata (Vanilla Sweetgrass, Fragrant Holy Grass)

Vanilla Sweet Grass is an aromatic, cool-season perennial growing 10-24” tall, blooming in June to July, and spreading about 2 feet per year by underground rhizomes. The natural range of Sweet Grass is Greenland to Alaska, south to New Jersey, the Midwest, and Arizona, in zones 3 to 7. Its natural habitat is wetlands, prairies, and savannas in wet to medium moisture soils. A sacred grass in Native American ceremonies, Sweet Grass is braided and burned as a ‘smudge’ to purify body and soul and invite the presence of good spirits. The glossy green leaves have a pleasant vanilla fragrance. Because of its aggressive, rhizomatous nature it can be difficult to eliminate if it has spread to areas where it is not wanted. Though Sweet Grass prefers rich, moist soils, it will grow in almost any soil that receives a minimum of a half day of sun. Sandy, well-drained sites will require mulch and watering during times of low rainfall. Add compost to sand or clay soils. The preferred pH range is 6 to 8. (Photo credit: Prairie Moon Nursery.)  In stock now!

Koeleria macrantha (June Grass)

Native! This lovely small green clump grass has attractive dense, compact seed heads starting in, you guessed it, June.  Good for prairie and foothills gardens. Hardy to Zone 3 to 4 and tolerant of full sun or part shade, low to moderate watering. (Photo credit: Prairie Moon Nursery.)  In stock soon! 

Nasella (Stipa) tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Also known as Ponytail Grass, this small grass, to 14” tall, has very fine-textured blades that make a ‘fountain’ of green. It can sometimes be evergreen. This grass is not very long-lived. Most cool season grasses don’t self-sow much, but Nasella does, a lot. Hardy to Zone 5.  In stock now!

Oryzopsis hymenoides (Indian Rice Grass)

Native! Up to 2’ tall. Native to Boulder County and much of the interior West. Grows in very dry areas, in full sun. Graceful, open clumps of very narrow blades, and delicately branched flowering stalks in June. Small pearl-like white seeds are held individually on the much-branched stalks and were collected by Native Americans for use as a grain. Also, an important food source for wildlife. Old seed germinates better than new seed. Needs supplemental summer watering if you want to keep it from going dormant. Excellent meadow grass, perfect in native xeriscapes. Hardy to Zone 3. (Photo credit: Native Foods Nursery.)  In stock now! 


We also carry two types of grass-like sedge that are also cool-season:

Carex appalachica (Appalachian Sedge)

A small fountain-like clumping sedge, 10”- 2’ tall, very fine-textured, bright light green and very attractive. Native to woods in Eastern N. America, it grows well in dry shade or part shade. It mixes well with perennials and serves as a neat groundcover or edger. Its tenacious roots will prevent erosion on shady slopes, and it can grow amongst tree roots. Blooms in spring, supporting beneficial insects. Hardy to Zone 4. In stock now!

Carex caryophllea ‘Beatlemania’ (‘Beatlemania’ Variegated Vernal Sedge)

This petite sedge is rhizomatous and spreads. Its long glossy blades are slightly variegated yellow and green, and curve to the ground, giving it a mop-headed look. Makes an excellent groundcover or small ‘lawn’ (just to look at, not to step on) in shady gardens, especially Asian-styled gardens. Almost evergreen. Hardy to Zone 5.  


Achnatherum calamagrostis UNDAUNTED® Alpine Plume Grass (Alpine Plume Grass)

Alpine plume grass is a spectacular long-lived grass from high mountain meadows in central and southern Europe. A mature plant makes a dramatic specimen, with several dozen flower heads waving above a graceful fountain of fresh green foliage. The flowers persist from summer until the following spring when the entire plant should be cut back to make room for the new season’s growth. Unlike many other ornamental grasses, the foliage doesn’t die out in the clump’s center over time. (Photo and description credit: Plant Select.)  In stock now!

Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem)

Native!  Big Bluestem is taller and has a wider blade than Little Bluestem and is somewhat upright but also arching. It also has attractive reddish and purple fall colors. Big Bluestem is one of the dominant components of the Tallgrass Prairies across the Great Plains, where it can reach 8’ in height. Here it can range from 2 to 5’ tall, depending on water and nutrients available. We carry the wild species, and the selection introduced by Plant Select, called ‘Windwalker’ (Photo credit: Plant Select), which has an upright habit, exceptionally blue foliage, and in late summer turns deep red and purple fall colors that persist into winter. In late summer, Big Bluestem has purplish red flowers appear in groups of three or six, which look like a turkey foot – hence the nickname: “Turkey Foot Grass”. The root system can extend down more than 10 feet. Each year, a third of these roots die, opening up channels for water. This plant is drought tolerant once it’s established. Attracts birds and butterfly larvae. Plant in Full Sun. Hardy to Zone 4.  In stock now!

Andropogon (Schizachyrium) scoparium (Little Bluestem)

Native! Little Bluestem is very erect to 24”-30” with fine foliage and blooms in late summer-early fall. Blooms turn white and catch the early morning and late afternoon sun beautifully when back-lit. The foliage turns copper and looks good for a long time. Very drought-tolerant. Selections ‘The Blues’ and ‘Prairie Blues’ have very blue foliage during the growing season. ‘Blaze’ is a colorful selection of the common native in this region. Hardy to Zone 3.  (Photo credit: High Country Gardens.)  In stock now!

Bothriochloa scoparium, syn. B. laguroides (Silver Beard Grass)

Native! Silver Beardgrass is a native perennial clump-grass with fuzzy, light-gathering, white fruiting heads atop tall, slender, stiff stems and narrow blades. At first glance it looks like foxtail grass, but up close you see that instead of the flower head being compact and spike-like, as in the foxtails, it’s a narrow, branched panicle. It occurs along roads, in spots in fields of Big Bluestem, on the rocky slopes of hills, and it’s a very tough grass specializing in dry, open places from South America to Colorado. It’s not flamboyant-looking until those slender, white heads catch the back-lighting sun in late summer; then they are very eye-catching. (Photo credit:  In stock now!

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama) and Bouteloua curtipendula (Side-Oats Grama)

are both native and very drought tolerant. There’s a selection of Blue Grama called ‘Blonde Ambition’ that is taller and has pale tan ‘eyelashes’ rather than the common gray-brown. One can make a drought-tolerant lawn of Blue Grama with some effort (weeding for the first several years) which will be green in summer, brown in winter. Hardy to Zone 3. Blue Grama is our State grass! Side-Oats Grama is a smaller meadow grass. Seed heads and foliage turn a beautiful dark purple-red in fall. Hardy to Zone 3. (Photo credit: Plant Select.)  In stock now!

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats, River Oats)

A US native, though not native here, this grass grows well in part shade. The wide, bright green blades emerge from the stems at many heights, giving it a slightly bamboo-like look. The pendulous seed clusters in late summer are composed of very attractive flat, plaited spikelets, starting out pale green, later turning tan. Foliage stays green until fall, when it turns yellow. It will self-sow but is easy to recognize and not difficult to control. Hardy to Zone 3.  (Photo Credit: Tagawa Gardens.)  In stock soon!

Eragrostis trichodes (Sand Love Grass)

Native! This medium-sized grass, to 2-3’ x 2-3’, loves to grow in sandy soil as its name suggests, but adapts to many soils with low to moderate moisture. It is effective in masses and can be an excellent component of a meadow. Reddish tones begin to show in late summer, and the haze of tiny purple-pink seeds in late summer are beautiful. Sand Love Grass tends to rot in the center as it gets older, and self-sows readily. Plant in full sun. Hardy to Zone 5. (Photo Credit: Pawnee Buttes Seeds Inc.)  In stock now!

Muhlenbergia reverchonii ‘Undaunted’ (‘Undaunted’ Ruby Muhly Grass)

A Plant Select winner that is hardy here, but not at higher elevations. It is native to Oklahoma and Texas and is said to grow where there’s water (one common name is ‘Seep Muhly’), yet some horticulturists here recommend growing it pretty dry. When well-grown, it makes a beautiful and graceful 2’ x 3’ mound of fine mid-green blades covered in late summer by a shimmering haze of tiny pink/red flowers, then reddish seeds. Hardy to Zone 5. (Photo credit: Plant Select.)  In stock now!
We also offer the native Muhlenbergia montana (Mountain Muhly), which will grow in moderate to dry conditions, with a less dense display of seedheads than Ruby Muhly Grass. Mountain muhly is a strongly tufted perennial grass, 8-20 in. tall, with loose, narrow panicles and light-green. leaves.  In stock now!

Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass)

Native!  Switchgrass was an important component of the Tallgrass Prairie. It tolerates a wide range of soils, including dry ones, but prefers moist soils that are not too rich in nitrogen, and grows best in full sun. Here it grows to about 3’ tall and wide, topped in midsummer by a finely-textured pinkish flower panicles that hover over the foliage like an airy cloud. Seed plumes turn beige and persist well into winter, providing an excellent seed source for birds. Fall foliage color is yellow. Salt-tolerant. “Heavy Metal” variety is more upright and has steely blue foliage. ‘Shenandoah’ is the most popular variety for red foliage accents, with red coloration appearing in summer and increasing in fall. Hardy to Zone 2. (Photo Credit: Tagawa Gardens.)  In stock now!

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass)

‘Hameln’ is a smaller and hardier variety of fountain grass with three distinctive seasons of attractive displays. Green, fine-textured grass blades up to 2 feet tall are tipped with soft, foxtail-shaped seed heads. Foliage turns rust gold in autumn and pale blonde in winter, and is a favorite stopover for birds. Taking moderate watering, it’s great match for late-season perennials and colorful shrubs in the sunny mixed border. Hardy to Zone 5. (Photo credit: NetPS Plantfinder.)  In stock now!

Sporobolis airoides (Alkali Sacaton)

Native! The ‘lit

tle brother’ of Giant Sacaton. The foliage mass is about 2’x2’, with the large, pinkish airy bloom/seed plumes rising to 40-48″ tall. For a ‘warm-season’ grass, Alkali Sacaton gets growing quite early in spring, so prune it back in February.  A robust native, Alkali Sacaton flowers for many months, beginning in June. Deep rooted, this grass grows well in all soil types including sand, loam and clay as well as alkaline and salty soils, and prefers moderate to low moisture.  On the prairie Sporobolus is used by animals for forage, cover and nesting. Its seeds are relished by birds. Hardy to Zone 4. (Photo credit: High Country Gardens.)  In stock now!

Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)

Native! A lovely small grass found here in the foothills and eastward across the Western prairies. Growing to 1-2’ tall and wide, it makes an elegant, fine-textured, emerald green fountain, suitable in many garden styles. The fine-textured plumes that rise above the foliage clump are attractive in bloom and in seed, and are favored by songbirds. The inflorescences are pleasantly fragrant – some say they smell like burnt buttered popcorn. Plains Indian tribes ground the seeds to make a tasty flour. Prairie Dropseed is also drought tolerant and turns a nice russet brown in fall. Hardy to Zone 4. (Photo credit: CSU Extension.) In stock soon!

Sporobolis wrightii (Giant Sacaton, Wright’s Sacaton)

Comes up earlier in spring than most other warm season grasses. It also flowers earlier than most other warm-season grasses. This huge S.W. native grass grows to 6-10’ tall and 4-6’ wide, tolerates most soils and is very drought-tolerant. Huge airy flower/seed panicles are ornamental well into winter. Hardy to Zone 5. Cut back to 2-3” in late winter. (Photo credit: Plant Select.) In stock now!

Sorghastrum nutans (Indian Grass)

Native! A tall & narrow grass that is an important part of the tall grass prairie. Here it grows in an upright clump to 6’tall x 3’wide. Indian Grass. Flowering stalks are topped by dense golden flame-shaped inflorescences which mature to brown, bearing numerous nutritious seeds that were used by Native Americans to produce flour. It can grow in a wide range of soils and tolerates drought, cold, salinity and heavy clay, but prefers rich, silty-loams in full sun. Indian grass attracts wildlife; bees come to the blossoms, songbirds eat the seeds, and it provides excellent cover for pheasants, quail, mourning doves and prairie chickens. We sell the seed-grown species, with bluish foliage, and Plant Select’s “Thin Man”, which has distinctly blue foliage and especially narrow habit. Hardy to Zone 4. (Photo credit: Plant Select.)  In stock now!


Achnatherum calamagrostis UNDAUNTED® Alpine Plume Grass (Alpine Plume Grass)
Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)
Andropogon gerardi (Big Bluestem Grass)
Bothriochloa scoparium (Silver Beard Grass)
Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama)
Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blonde Ambition Grass)
Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass)
Carex appalachia (Appalachian Sedge)
Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted Hairgrass)
Eragrostis trichodes (Sand Love Grass)
Festuca glauca ‘Boulder Blue’ (Boulder Blue Fescue)
Festuca idahoensis (Idaho Fescue) 
Festuca ovina ‘Sea Urchin’
Festuca thurberi
Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat/Avena Grass)
Hierochloe odorata (Sweetgrass)
Muhlenbergia montana (Mountain Muhly)
Muhlenbergia reverchonii ‘Undaunted’
Nassella tenuissima (Ponytail/Mexican Feather Grass)
Oryzopsis hymenoides (Indian Rice Grass)
Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)
Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ & ‘Heavy Metal’
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Dwarf Fountain Grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) ‘Blaze’, ‘The Blues’, ‘Prairie Blues’
Sorghastrum nutans ‘Cheyenne’ (Indian Grass)
Sporobolus airoides (Alkali Sacaton)
Sporobolus wrightii (Giant Sacaton)


Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)
Koeleria macrantha (June Grass)
Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


  • Easy to grow, beautiful, versatile, and durable.
  • Use for accents, massing, meadow, groundcover, to provide motion, grace, and great fall and winter interest.
  • Many thrive on little water, many are natives.
  • All but one are clump-forming, without invasive spreading roots.
  • Plant throughout growing season with adequate water. 
  • Most grasses live longer & sturdier if grown in leaner conditions.
  • Use light applications of organic fertilizer and/or compost or aged manure.
  • We recommend: Richlawn Organic, Yum Yum or Alpha-One fertilizer, Compost, and Dairy Cow Manure.


Call 303-939-9403 to reserve your seat!

Our weekends are loaded with great classes you won’t want to miss! Our customers tell us that our classes have given them tremendous value, with practical and current information from local experts who have spent years honing their skills in Colorado and will help guide you to success. We are charging $15 (unless otherwise stated) for our classes to support our speakers and Harlequin’s educational direction. It is best to pre-register for these classes both in case they fill up, or too few people register and we have to cancel. Pre-payment assures your place in the class. You can register at the nursery, by mail, or by calling 303-939-9403. We are unable to take class registration by email at this time.  Most of our classes run from one-and-a-half to two hours in length, and sometimes longer for hands-on classes, or if there are a large number of questions.  See the complete listing on our website.  


Sun, Jul 28 at 10 AM     

In this class, you will take what you learned in the classroom last week and put it to practice on a mushroom hunting field trip in the mountains. Location given at registration.  Participants should come prepared with water, hats, and weather-appropriate clothing.  Pre-payment required: (303-939-9403).  Zach Hedstrom is a mushroom fanatic and grower at Hazel Dell! Class cost: $15.


Sun, Aug 11 at 1 PM      
with Mikl Brawner                

Learn how to train young trees, restructure shrubs and trees damaged by storms, and to prune roses. Mikl has over 35 years of experience in pruning. (Repeated on Sep. 15). Class cost: $15


Sun, Aug 25 at 1 PM      
with Mikl Brawner   

Mikl has been researching, building, and using simple greenhouses for 20 years. This class will focus on five designs on site at the nursery. Class cost: $15


Sun, Sep 8 at 1 PM         
HOW TO MULCH with Mikl Brawner 

Weedbarrier, wood chips, straw, fine gravel, bark? Which mulches should be used and where? Why is mulching so important? What’s wrong with redwood and cedar? Mikl will discuss these questions and suggest solutions. Class cost: $15


Sun, Sep 15 at 1 PM      
with Mikl Brawner    

Learn how to train young trees, restructure shrubs and trees damaged by storms, and to prune roses. Mikl has over 35 years of experience in pruning. (Repeat of Aug. 11) Class cost: $15


Sat, Oct 5 from 10 AM to 2 PM           
with Kelly Grummons 

Kelly Grummons of Prairie Storm Nursery ( and will answer those oft-asked gardening questions such as: when do I prune my roses, start tomato seeds, seed grass, put down sod, cut back ornamental grasses, prune lilacs and clematis, apply soil microbes, when to fertilize, transplant perennials, divide iris, etc., etc.  Get the picture?!  Answers provided.  Kelly is one of the region’s preeminent horticulturists, and an expert in natural plant nutrition and pest control. Plan to bring a sack lunch. Class cost: $30


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We’re looking forward to seeing you soon! 
In gratitude,
Eve, Mikl
and the super hard-working Staff at Harlequin’s Gardens

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