An ornamental grass called Northern Sea Oats

Northern Sea Oats: Ornamental Grace Notes

This captivating ornamental grass adds appealing visual interest by transforming the vexing nuisance niches in your landscape.

Usually grown from sets, Northern sea oats is an ornamental grass that features unique and beguiling seed heads, which droop fetchingly from their stems and look for all the world like tiny bronzed wind chimes, gently fluttering with any passing breeze. The leaves of this perennial are dark green, long, and slightly pointed at the ends, resembling bamboo leaves.

Northern sea oats grow two to three feet tall and mature in mid-summer, when they begin developing their signature bronze seed heads. The immature seed heads sport a spring-like green, but, as time goes on, they turn a deep warm tan, in pleasant sync with the seasons. They can thrive in both clay and sandy soils, and, while they can take the sun in stride, they seem to prefer shady spots. Pick up Northern sea oats sets at any garden center.

Many homeowners in the know like to let Northern sea oats and other perennials over-winter, to provide not only seasonal interest on dormant lawns, but also practical food and shelter for winter birds. When autumn sets in, remove or at least judiciously prune the seed heads, because they’re spectacularly prolific self-seeders. If you decide to take the seed heads inside, they’ll do double duty in stunning dried floral arrangements. Because of its self-seeding propensity, Northern sea oats aren’t so much ground cover as grace notes!—By Kat Schneider