Grasses Galore!

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Grasses Galore!

You may have noticed that grasses are everywhere these days.

They’re in all the garden magazines, they’re ubiquitous throughout the garden shows, and even your local nurseries are most likely carrying a wide selection tucked in among the perennial aisle. Yes, grasses are all the rage and for good reason.

Generally speaking, grasses aren’t choosy about soil conditions, many are drought tolerant and they’re typically left alone by diseases and pests (deer and rabbits included!)

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As if this weren’t enough, they come in every size imaginable! From the diminutive black mondo grass, to the mid-size Cape Mendocino reed grass, to the long and arching blades of the purple fountain grass.

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Need more convincing? How about the fact that they come in a whole range of colors: ruby red, steel blue, black, chartreuse, pink, brown, orange and variegated forms.

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One of the reasons designers love grasses so much is the delicate nature of their finely textured foliage. It’s the perfect complement to most any neighboring plant. Most grasses have long, thin blades and when placed near plants with flowers or those with larger leaves, contrast is created providing much more visual interest in the planting bed. The roses in this photo are pretty enough, but when the nestled near a blue fescue, a little garden magic is created.

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And due to their fine foliage, grasses catch the light better than most any plant I can think of, causing them to glow in the garden as if light from within. And should there be a soft breeze, they’ll sway gently in the wind providing a much needed design element to your garden – movement.

Thanks to the popularity of grasses, nurseries are offering more and more varieties than they ever have before. As gardeners and designers are becoming increasingly familiar with them, we’re seeing grasses used in ways never seen before. Grasses are finally getting their due!

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For example, in times past antique urns were typically filled with a complex mix of perennials gracefully arching up and over the sides. However, the ‘one plant per pot’ philosophy works really well when an ornamental grass is used.

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Another reason why grasses in containers work so well is because in larger landscapes, plants with finely textured foliage can sometimes get lost. When elevated in a container, however, their foliage can now be appreciated up close.

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Consider this focal-point bench, topped with soft and mounding grasses – don’t you just want to run your hands through it?

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Or these casual stone steps leading from one terrace to another. Instead of using pebbles in between the ledgers, grass is used in its place, providing a softer landing both physically and visually.

So next time you’re at the nursery, instead of seeking out your typical perennials won’t you also consider a grass or two? I have no doubt you’ll be pleasantly surprised!