Kelly D. Norris is the horticulture manager at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

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‘Blonde Ambition’
by Kelly D. Norris       #Hot Plants

By mid autumn, clouds of blonde brushes hover above the ground up to 36 inches high. The best time to plant ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis) and many other ornamental grasses is in spring.

It may seem odd to talk about a late-summer flowering grass in late spring, but the fact is you’re going to want to rush out and nab this soon enough to get it planted instead of waiting another season. Blue grama grass is one of the essential components of the short-grass prairie found abundantly on the High Plains, garnering its common name from the leaves and its bluish haze. 

But despite its Western association, blue grama grass is equally at home in Iowa’s Loess Hills and elsewhere. Brilliantly adapted to drought and lackluster soil, a new cultivar of this hip-high grass does more for Jessica Simpson’s star power than the movie of the same name.

‘Blonde Ambition’ is arguably one of the finest newer ornamental grasses on the market and a lot more than a pretty face. It’s a thriving choice for scree, rock and gravel gardens, and would brighten up many urban spots where turf has long given up. Its name derives from the cloud of blonde bristle brushes that adorn the plant from mid-August through fall, a floral display that lasts long after the anthers have faded and seems only to get better, right up until the winter winds blow. Discovered by High Country Gardens proprietor David Salman, Blonde Ambition was recognized as a 2011 Plant Select winner for something completely different on the national gardening scene.

Common Name: Blonde Ambition blue grama grass

Botanical Name: Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’

Color: Blonde

Blooming Period: Late summer through fall

Type: Perennial; hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 9.

Size: Up to 36 inches high and 24 inches wide

Exposure: Full sun

When to Plant: Spring

How to Plant: Plant container-grown specimens according to label directions.

Soil: Adaptable to a range of soils with good drainage. Great in xeric conditions.

In Your Landscape: Clouds of blonde-colored flowers thrive in dry, tough conditions in beds and borders. 

From Iowa Gardener Volume I Issue III. Photo courtesy of Kelly D. Norris.


Posted: 03/28/14   RSS | Print


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