Friday, December 20, 2013

'Northwind' Switchgrass (PPA 2014 Plant of the Year)

My arms are numb after spreading a ton (literally) of sand and salt over the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) paths throughout the day.  Freezing drizzle arrived last night and I came in to a 1/2" layer of glare ice over the paths.  We had freezing drizzle most of the day as well.  Bill O. and I salted, sanded and then salted again to make the paths passable.  As I type, we made the decision to cancel the HLS tonight because of travel conditions, our icy parking lot, moisture issues for the lights and potential slippery spots.  It would be a sparsely attended night and we hope potential visitors for tonight will reschedule for one of the remaining seven nights.  We also saw Maury, Dr. Yahr (visiting from AZ for the holidays) and Del today.  Next week will be sporadic with volunteers and grounds staff and my blogs will be infrequent until after the New Year.  

I'm featuring the 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year as selected by the Perennial Plant Association (PPA). The selection this year has some Wisconsin "roots" and is 'Northwind' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).  I'm a member of the PPA ( and since 1990, the group votes on and selects a superior perennial for recognition and promotion.  The PPA’s Perennial of the Year program is designed to showcase, each year, a perennial that is a “standout among its competitors.” These chosen plants are “suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease free.”  'Northwind' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) certainly is all of that and was discovered and introduced by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm (near Lake Geneva, WI) in the early 1990s.  This perennial, ornamental grass is known for bluish green foliage (see above), wispy flower panicles in mid summer and a very upright, rigid habit.  Catalogs list this variety at 5-6' but we've grown it taller at RBG with ample watering.  This selection gets a nice yellow fall color and it stays extremely rigid and upright even when challenged by heavy winds and snows.  It's nice to see this grass recognized although many have enjoyed the merits of the "locally introduced" grass for many years.  Below are some seasonal shots (different specimens) in rough sequence from June until winter. 

1 comment:

Karen Chapman said...

Mark, I don't know how else to contact you! I'd like to ask your permission to use your image of Athyrium 'Ghost' for an upcoming PowerPoint. I am co-author of 'FINE FOLIAGE' (St. Lynn's Press, 2013). Please contact me through my website as I don't want to leave my email on here for fear of spam. thank you in advance!