Ornamental Grasses

Today’s garden differs from gardens of the past.  This is partially due to the fact that in today’s garden so many varieties of plants are available to the designer.  One category that has risen in popularity is Ornamental Grasses.  The fact that ornamental grasses offer so much and ask for so little may be the reason. Ornamental grasses have a way of bringing motion, beauty and softness to garden beds and borders.  Ornamental grasses can play a supportive role to other plants or be the star of the garden and provide the focal point.

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There are many ways to use grasses in the garden.  Here are a few suggestions.

 

Grasses can be used in containers and planters.  Grasses mix well with annuals, perennials and succulents adding texture and movement to the arrangement.  Used alone, in a large container, grasses will create a dramatic effect.

 

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As a ground cover grasses provide neat little tufts.  Mixing low grasses, such as Pennisetum, Carex and Festuca, with natural looking “umbilifers’ such as Yarrow (Achillea Sp.), Chelsea Cow Parsley (Cenolophium denudatum) and Queen Anne’s Lace ‘Ravenswing’ (Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’) creates an interesting meadow effect.

 

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Use grasses as hedges and screens.  Tall grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Karl Forester’ or Miscanthus sin. ‘Morning Light’ create wonderful seasonal screens that catch the light and move gracefully in the wind.

 

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Ornamental grasses can be companions to perennials.  Medium height grasses, such as Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima) or Blue Oat Grass (Helictotricon sempervirens) mix well with perennials such as Euphorbias, Lavenders, Salvias and Sedums.  Grasses will give the perennial flower border greater depth and color.

 

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Now that we are officially in the midst of a drought, grasses are the perfect choice.  Weekly irrigation is sufficient for most established grasses.  Another benefit is that grasses don’t require fertilizer and look better left on their own.  In fact, pest and diseases rarely affect grasses.

What grasses do require to look their best is cutting back once a year in the late winter or early spring.  Cut the clumps back to just a few inches when new growth appears at the base.  You should also divide grasses when they outgrow their area or develop bare centers.

Finding grasses in the nursery was difficult to do 25 years ago.  Today most nurseries carry a wide variety of grasses.  The popularity of grasses has risen because they require low maintenance, have a long flowering season and are rarely bothered by disease and pest.  Today you can find a dramatic array of grasses for many landscape uses.