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Ornamental Grasses for the Garden

Ornamental Grasses are a welcome addition to any garden  - in almost any situation. The fact that 'grass' is so commonplace - lawns, weeds, cereal crops, and now even as bio-fuel, sometimes puts gardeners off using this wide range of plants for the ornamental garden.

Rest assured that the ornamental grasses that are mentioned in this section, will be a delight and in no way can they be described as weeds.

There are several plant groups that are similar to grasses, such as Acorus and Cyperus. These are not true grasses (Members of the Gramineae family) but sedges and the like. We will not include those here. Bamboos are members of the grass family, but we will devote a separate section for those also. In this section, we refer to those grasses that are commonly called ornamental grasses.

Red Baron Ornamental grass foliage

They can be evergreen or deciduous, hardy or tender, perennial or annual, mound forming or erect, sun loving or shade loving. The one thing that most ornamental grasses have in common, is that they are more or less trouble free from pests and diseases, are easy to grow, and have a long period of interest in the garden.

Grasses are available for any situation in the garden....They don't all grow as big as Pampas Grass!

  • Border - You can either start your own dedicated Ornamental Grass Border, or interplant into perennial borders or shrub borders.
  • Flower Beds - Annual flower beds often lack something in the way of height - though there are flower options available of course. But, for something special in the middle of an annual bedding plant bed, why not try a majestic Miscanthus, or a more delicate Briza, or an ornamental sweet corn Zea plant! They will add height and a new dimension visually to your flower bed.
  • Containers - Most grasses are suitable - even if for a short time - in assorted patio containers. A tall growing centrepiece, or the low growing Hakonechloa or Evegreen Carex for some gold edging to a large container. For a single plant in a high container - look no further than excellent Carex comans
  • Window Boxes - Many of the smaller ornamental grasses are suited to growing in window boxes. Best to choose a variety that is happy in dry conditions, and of course evergreen if it is a permanent planting.
  • Hanging Baskets - Are probably the last place you would expect to find an ornamental grass, but some work magnificently.

Some ornamental grasses are evergreen - others are deciduous. Just a few are annuals - having to be sown each year (though they normally do this for themselves once established - but most are perennials, As such the re-grow each year and grace the garden through late spring and summer, and then into their own during the Autumn and Winter.

Autumn Interest.

The latter part of the year is my favourite for the splendour of grasses turning colour, as the Autumn progresses and the flower heads turn to no-less attractive seed heads. The only thing that can beat them for Autumn interest, is the vibrant colours of the Japanese Maples. But wait! The Japanese Maples - and other Autumn foliage plants lose their leaves - and interest in a matter of a few weeks.

The colour and interest of Miscanthus grasses in the Autumn can last for months! The seedheads at this time, also being havens for all manner of wildlife - especially birds in search of a late feed!

Types of Ornamental Grass

Grasses for the garden come in all shapes and sizes. Together with that, there are many types of ornamental grass structural forms to choose from, ranging from the majestic Miscanthus to the mound forming Carex types and the low growing - almost ground hugging - Ophiopogon and Hakonechloa. If it is sheer height that you want, then of course there are the various types of Cortaderia (Pampas), and the lesser known skyscraper grass - Arundo.

The pictures below will give you a starter idea of the types of ornamental grasses that are available for general garden use.

Arundo variegatum - Ornamental variegated grass  Carex Comans - Ornamental bronze coloured Grass  Micanthus sinensis Flamingo  Imperata cylindrica - Red Baron Grass
Arundo donax Variegatum |Carex comans | Miscanthus sinensis Kascade |Imperata Red Baron

Briza media - Ornamental Grass  Calamagrostis brachytricta - Ornamental Grass  Pampas Grass - Cortaderia selloana  Deschampsia - Ornamental Grass
Briza media |      Calamagrostis brachytricta |   Cortaderia Pampas |  Deschampsia cespitosa

Elymus hispidus - Ornamental Blue Grass  Festuca glauca Elijah Blue - Dwarf blue grass  Hakonecloa macra Aurola - Dwarf golden grass Stipa arundinacea - Ornamental oat grass
Elymus hipidus     |     Festuca glauca  |   Hakonechloa macra Aureola  | Stipa arundinacea

Hordeum jubatum - Squirrel Tail Grass  Molinia caerulea Variegatum arundinacea Windspiel  Ophiopogan - Black Dragon Grass  Pennisetum villosum - Feathertop Grass
Hordeum jubatum  |     Molinia caerulea  |    Ophiopogon Black Dragon  | Pennisetum villosum

Panicum miliaceum Violaceum - Millet  Helictotrichon sempervirens - Blue Oat Grass Liriope muscari - Lilyturf. Often classed as a grass - which it is not!
Panicum    |           Helictotrichon   |          Liriope muscari  |              Zea

Stipa tenuissima | Stipa splendens | Stipa gigantea | Stipa calamagrostis |

An Idea for Winter Grasses

An added incentive for you to plant Ornamental Grasses, is that they need hardly any attention or maintenance at all - and that includes watering! Most of the grasses are happy in the dry garden - and in fact many gardens set aside a specific area of dry ground as a dry garden or border specifically for Grasses.


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