Gardening: Decorative grasses in winter

Gardening: Ornamental grasses in winter

Just wanted to let you know about your ornamental grasses article which was great.

Our first regional recycling center on Weaverville Road is no longer accepting these grasses, I wonder why? But people should think before planting them.

Also, the state has expanded its list of various plants and trees that growers are not allowed to sell or propagate. The butterfly bush surprised me. Perhaps you can print an updated list?

– Tom Sedor, Northampton PA.

Plants are not inherently bad or good. However, if a plant is removed from its natural habitat, it can become aggressive and spread out of control. As they spread, they often crowd out established native plants. This disrupts the natural system. Native food sources are disappearing and with them other native species such as insects, birds and other animals.

The problem with ornamental grasses is usually that the seed spreads far beyond its intended spot in the garden. When the grasses make it to the recycling center, these hardy seeds could be further disseminated throughout the community in municipal mulch or compost piles. Imagine a few years ago, when our gardens and lawns weren’t yet covered with Japanese stilt grass. In masses, the grass is beautiful with graceful stems and seed heads that add a rosy hue to the landscape. But it has become one of the most invasive weeds in the area. I’ve found several communities that have banned ornamental grasses from their collection services.

Truly invasive plants should be destroyed and discarded as trash instead of being recycled or composted. They should also not be shared with other gardeners or offered in plant exchanges or sales.

Plants can be so problematic that they are banned from sale or banned from state lands or just not recommended. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recently banned the sale of:

Ravenna Grass, Shiny Sea Buckthorn and Common Sea Buckthorn – April 5, 2022

Japanese barberry (berberis thunbergii) – October 8, 2021. Also garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vinineum)

But there are many more – monsoon (Pyrus calleryana), multiflowered rose (Rosa multiform), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria, L virgatum), heavenly tree (Ailanthus altissimo) and oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) are some common examples. See: Controlled Plant and Noxious Weeds at

There are other plants that are recognized as invasive but are sold nonetheless. These include the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) and the burning bush (Euonymus alatus). See: Invasive Plant Fact Sheet: Plants in this group are generally avoided by gardeners concerned with maintaining native habitats.

For a better understanding of the effects of invasive alien plants, I recommend reading the books by Dr. Doug Tallamy. He is the TA Baker Professor of Agriculture in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and the author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants.

It’s really cold and it’s like winter mulch. Remember that winter protection is applied after the ground has frozen. So if you’re taking off your decorations in a week or so, maybe add an inch or two of mulch on beds with susceptible plants. But also remember that mulch should be kept away from the stems or trunks of the plants. Mulch provides a warm and secure cover for gnawing rodents that can destroy your crops in a single winter.

Tomorrow Fran and I will celebrate Christmas, a quiet day of memories of friends and family we’ve lost and appreciation of those we still have. We wish everyone a wonderful holiday season – Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa and wish you all a fantastic gardening season.

Keep your trees watered, your tropes out of the draft and your amaryllis rotating. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Keep candles, heaters and open flames away from flammable plants and enjoy the holidays.

Sue Kittek is a freelance gardening columnist, author, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at or by mail to: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, PO Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

Plants: Use cut greens and ropes, small evergreens and holly to brighten up the winter landscape. Pot any leftover spring bloomers and store in a cool spot with temperatures around 40°F or cooler for 8 to 12 weeks, then force them to bud. Sow seeds that require a cold spell to germinate.

Seasonal: Check the water reservoir on your Christmas tree every day and fill it up if necessary.

Shop for gifts and gift cards for gardeners on your Christmas list. Secure all decorations so they don’t get damaged or fly away. Tie up ornamental grasses. If you’re buying a live potted or burlap Christmas tree, find a suitable planting spot, dig it up, and store the soil covered or in a container in the garage.

Lawn: Rake, blow or mulch leaves on the lawn. Matted leaves encourage mold problems and can prevent water from getting into the soil. Keep newly seeded or grassed lawns watered; Supplement rain during weeks when less than an inch fills in holes and low spots in the lawn.

Tasks: Bring easy-to-move pots and lawn decorations or wrap large statues to prevent winter damage. Store empty terracotta, clay, or plastic pots in a dry, sheltered place to prevent cracking. Stop pruning by late winter or very early spring. Mark beds, new plantings, plants that come out of dormancy late in spring and delicate plants. Stay away from them when decorating or dealing with snow removal. Apply winter mulch after the ground freezes.

Water new plantings whenever we experience a week with less than an inch of rain until the ground freezes. When the amaryllis bulbs sprout, water and move to a warmer place, then gradually to indirect light. Rotate them regularly to maintain strong straight stems. Stake the stems when they start to bend or bend. Top dressing with compost or manure now and until next spring. Water new plantings whenever we experience a week with less than an inch of rain until the ground freezes. Check the sealing around doors and windows. Fix now to keep mice, ladybugs and stink bugs away. Repair or replace damaged strainers and garden hoses.

Maintain deer, rabbit and marmot protection for endangered plants. Reapply taste or odor repellent. Clean and fill bird feeders regularly. Eliminate spilled seeds and empty hulls. Empty, scrub and fill the bird bath at least once a week. Use a small heater to keep the water liquid in cold weather.

Clean gutters and direct rainwater drainage away from house foundations.

Tools, Gear & Supplies: Clean and maintain summer/fall gear, then store or send for repairs.

Check winter equipment, repair or replace if necessary. Use fresh gas, check and/or replace oil and spark plugs.

Safety: Ensure that pets, children and other people are kept well away from the area where debris or snow is being cleared.

Store garden chemicals indoors away from pets and children. Dispose of obsolete ones at local chemical collection events. Photograph storm damage prior to clearance or repair for insurance claims and file it promptly. Anytime you are outside and temperatures are around 50°F or warmer, be on the lookout for tick bites. Use an insect repellent containing Deet on the skin. Apply a permethrin product to clothing. When gardening, wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, a hat, and long pants. drink enough Drink water or other decaf, non-alcoholic beverages. Even in cold weather, wear sunscreen, wear hats, and limit sun exposure. Wear closed shoes and gloves; use eye protection; and use hearing protection when using noisy power tools.