"Grass is grass," you say? When most people mention grass, they're talking about the common lawn grasses that many of us have been mowing since our childhoods. But some grasses are not meant to be mowed. They're known as "ornamental grasses." Like the pachysandras described on Page 2, ornamental grasses can serve as substitutes for lawn grass. Three such ornamental grasses are effective groundcovers specifically for deer control. They are blue oat grass, lilyturf and northern sea oats.
Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is an ornamental grass that grows 24"-36" high in loose clumps of green foliage (for a picture of this plant, see photo above). Its name derives from its seed pods, which look like oats. This deer-resistant ornamental grass is cold hardy to zone 5. Even after its leaves have dried and died, this ornamental grass provides visual interest to the winter landscape.
Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) is a cool-season ornamental grass that can be grown in zones 4-8 and is effective for deer control. This groundcover attains a size of about 2'-3' x 2'-3' and grows in a mounded shape. Grow it in full sun and well-drained soils, if you wish to enjoy the signature blue hues of its foliage to the fullest. The plant also produces spikey, dark flowers with a bluish tint in summer that turn harvest gold in autumn.
For a shorter groundcover, try lilyturf (Liriope spicata). Lilyturf ornamental grass can be grown in zones 4-10 and reaches only about 1' in height. Lilyturf likes water, but also prefers well-drained soil. Select an area with partial shade and soil rich in organic matter for best results. This ornamental grass, too, has a spikey flower, ranging in color from white to lavender. In autumn it bears a dark berry. You'll want to contain this plant, however, because it is invasive.
On Page 4 we'll look at some of the more popular groundcovers prized for deer control. As with lilyturf, these groundcovers are such vigorous growers that you may wish to keep them in check....