Ornamental Grasses for Northern New England Gardens & Landscapes

by Steve McRae (Landscape Consultant & Designer, Entrepreneur)

WillowMist Ornamental Grasses Nursery

Miscanthus 'Malepartus' in September breeze

Miscanthus 'Malepartus' in September breeze at WillowMist

I was watching the Victory Garden on NHPTV (New Hampshire Public Television) this morning and was ecstatic to find a nursery, WillowMist Grasses in New Hampshire that specializes in ornamental grasses. What a gem of a find. I only wish I’d found it a long time ago. It isn’t like you can’t find ornamental grasses in some of the larger, well known retail nurseries in New England but when you have the ability to go to the source of hardy Northern New England ornamental grasses then you should take the opportunity. You’ll get zone specific information from growers that know their specialty and you’ll get plants grown in the zone you’re planting for. Their grasses are grown for 2 or more  years before they are divided or sold as larger specimens.

I live in Zone 4 and this nursery has what you need if you’re in my hardiness zone 4/5. Growing plants this far north is a challenge, but the greater challenge is to actually find plants that are hardy enough to withstand winters like this one. No snow through the coldest months puts a real strain on a garden with plantings that are marginal for Zone 4. I have some and I’m really curious as to how they will do this winter. It’s been in the minus teens a few nights with wind chills below 25 below. With no snow cover that puts a lot of strain on the root systems and branches of any plant let alone one that is a borderline Zone 4 and really meant for Zone 5.

I’m getting off point a little, but it’s important to utilize these smaller nurseries that specialize in cold hardy plants for the northern landscape. My first stop this spring will be to WillowMist in Stratham, NH. While you’re in the area there is also another wonderful nursery at the Stratham Circle called Stratham Circle Nursery… go figure. It’s in New Hampshire near the seacoast.

Ornamental grasses are perfect specimens around a water feature or pond. They can also bring vibrant colors and visual stimulants to the fall landscape.

Sample description from the WillowMist website:

Miscanthus 'Graziella' in September breeze at WillowMist

Miscanthus 'Graziella' in September breeze at WillowMist

“Silver Grasses” (Miscanthus)

The Miscanthus are often called the “Royal Family” of Grasses. Their iridescent tassel-like flowers dramatically transform a landscape, swaying and whispering in every breeze

If you want to start with just one spectacular grass, a Silver Grass will usually be your best choice.

While there are relatively minor differences among these that create slightly different “personalities,” all put out lovely shimmering blooms, have mature heights of 4-7′, and present a variety of wonderful fall colors.

Cut flowers last very well in water and dry effortlessly indoors into wonderfully lacy forms that last years.


WillowMist Grasses

Bill & Teresa Holt
123A Union Road
Stratham, NH 03885

Cell: 603-944-3496
Nursery: 603-772-8165


Photos from:

Miscanthus ‘Graziella’ and ‘Malepartus’ in September breeze

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Orma Thompson 10/30/2012 at 5:05 am

What a find you are. I am originally from Hampton Falls, now living in the western part of the state – Sunapee area, and have just started three good size gardens – preparing for the spring. Is it too late to put grasses in now?
Thanks -

Steve McRae (Landscape Consultant & Designer, Entrepreneur) 10/30/2012 at 5:22 am

Thanks. I’ve neglected my site for bit lately, but I try. As for seeding your probably 2-3 weeks past, it might not be too late though if we get a freeze you may lose any seed that has absorbed water and hasn’t germinated and sprouted. Your just not going to get much of a growing window. If you put down a winter rye mix (garden) you may see some begin to germinate and take hold, but any lawn grass like creeping fescues and blue grass won’t stand a chance. A rye mix in this mild & wet weather may germinate fairly well. I’ve seeded when the ground is hard and we’re about to get a snowfall. It germinates in the spring. I’ve had good success that way, though it isn’t the optimal way to seed. I always think if you have an area that needs grass throw down the seed with some starter fertilizer. (May and Sept are the optimal months for our area.) Most areas will probably need reseeding but with a lot less seed. If you are overseeding an area that is already established, then seed, fertilize and add as much peat moss or compost to the area you want.
Gardens… put in organic compost, peat moss and whatever winter fertilizers you want, but I doubt you’ll have enough time for winter rye to establish and produce enough leafing to be of much value. But you never know what the weather has in store for us.
Does that help?

Good luck! :)


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