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Muhly grass puts on a show
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Muhly grass is already showing out with its incredible display of color. No doubt, it will be the hit again at the Annual Fall Flower and Garden Fest Oct.15-16.
This event, held at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, is unsurpassed as the best free horticultural festival in the South.
Muhly grass, which will be for sale at the Fest, was little known a few years ago, even though it is native to much of the South. Today it ranks as one of the most popular. Its virtues are many, including the ability to return from cold, blustery winters and thrive in high heat and humidity.
The foliage offers a unique, spiky texture and the plant finishes the season with the Grand Finale: the bloom. The bloom gives the appearance of a billowy, rose-pink cloud that moves back and forth gracefully with the breeze. The blooms persist until freezing weather arrives.
Whether or not you can attend the Fest, now is the time to shop. So, as you are getting your mums, pansies, kale and cabbage, pick up some muhly grass, too!
To grow yours, select a site in full sun, with fertile, organic-rich soil. Amend the soil as needed with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like compost or humus.
Till the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches and incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release 12-6-6 fertilizer.
Dig the planting hole two to three times as wide as the rootball, but no deeper. Plant the muhly grass at the same depth it is growing in the container, with the crown slightly above the soil profile. Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart, and apply a good layer of mulch after planting.
In late winter, cut the foliage back to the ground before spring growth as resumed. Apply a light application of the fertilizer at the time of pruning and again in mid-summer. Keep the grass watered during the prolonged dry periods of summer for the best appearance. Clumps can be divided in early spring.
Muhly grass reaches 3 to 4 feet in height and looks at home in any kind of garden. Grow in beds with deep pink shrub roses. Place them in front of other grasses like dwarf pampas, purple fountain or black bamboo. Muhly grass is awesome with Clara Curtis or Country Girl chrysanthemums. While specimen plantings are exceptional, try grouping three together for an especially showy display.
Muhly grass is sold generically and sells out quickly, so don't procrastinate in your shopping. Oh, yes -- in case you are wondering where the name Muhly comes from, it is actually a shortened version of its botanical name Muhlenbergia capillaris.
To find out more about the Fall Flower and Garden Fest, including information on attending, exhibiting or group tours, call (601) 892-3731. The event now draws over 6,000 visitors and brings tour buses from other states. The seminars, wagon rides, food and fun are non-stop Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.