Originating from the Latin word for stalk or stem, the genus Festuca is comprised of approximately 300 cool season perennial species. The following selections highlight natty fine textured tufts, which appreciate well-drained sites and a division every couple of years, while pouting in hot humid weather.
An inhabitant of central Europe, this finespun grass is practically peerless among Festucas. Soft silver-blue blades with rolled edges shape a well-groomed glaucous mound. Extending above evergreen clumping foliage, quantities of relaxed narrow stems generate vivid heliotrope shades paired with amber-hued flower spikes for more than a month. ‘Superba’ can serve as a dynamic small-scale specimen sprinkled above a stone wall or throughout the rockery, where it favors an annual early spring trimming and its stunning color always beckons.
Blooms mid May–mid July
Size: 18" – 2' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.
Hardy to zone 4.
A focal point for its stiff silvery blades, this robust grass originated from seed that Cal Flora Nursery owner, Phil Van Soelen, collected near California’s Sonoma coast. Anchored by burgundy sheaves, glaucous gray-green leaves remain evergreen in milder climates and become more lustrous as the weather warms. Unfurling in open, yet showy, abundance, the nimble greenish panicles mature to a golden hue some 2 or 3 ft. above a fairly compact, dense basal tuft of enduring handsome foliage. Resplendent massed with shrubs such as Ceanothus, Cistus or Ribes, ‘Phil’s Silver’ prefers minimal to moderate summer water and obliges an array of situations, such as coastal slopes, wind and drought in cooler locations.
Size: 3' 0" high x 3' 0" wide.
Hardy to zone 7.
We have nurseryman and botanist Henry Eilers to thank for this adaptable good-looking toughie that he chanced upon in Turkey. The arching, ever-so-fine matte-green foliage supports a showy array of lanky tail-like sand-colored blooms atop firm red-suffused stalks. Most likely of Festuca ovina parentage, ‘Eilers Beauty’ lends an inviting aspect to mixed borders or more relaxed plantings, where it can accompany Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and Helianthemum ‘Fire Dragon’, while tackling both heat and dry shade.
Size: 20" high x 20" wide.
Hardy to zone 4.
Not only beautifully blue, but hard-working to boot, this water wise perennial grass is a California native from Del Norte County. A thick, tidy hummock of very thin, chalk blue blades sends up slender, wandlike stems holding graceful, airy golden sprays.
Hallmarked by a composed appearance, ‘Stony Creek’ is most impressive and enduring in large drifts on banks or hillsides, where it aids erosion control, resists those pesky deer, doesn’t falter in full sun even inland, and prefers some afternoon shade.
Size: 2' 0" – 2-1/2' high x 2' 0" wide.
Indigenous to Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, this long-lived cold-hardy grass sprouts an elegantly arching fountain distinguished by dapper khaki-tinged gray-green blades. Taller than most Festucas, Atlas is reputed to be one of the finest large area ground covers, proving essential for mass plantings on slopes, in mixed borders or natural-style meadows. Evergreen where winters are mild and remarkably drought tolerant, its good-looking reliable mound relishes occasional waterings and doesn’t require a trim, only a little raking.
Size: 2' 0" – 3' 0" high x 2' 0" – 3' 0" wide.
Hardy to zone 4.