Ornamental grasses are suitable for all gardens whether its shady or sunny with different heights, textures, and leaf colours. There really is something for everyone regardless of your style of garden as they’re so versatile.
So if you’re looking for a low maintenance garden or want to fill in some gaps in your borders, here’s some suggestions on grasses to use.
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Kokuryu’ – this is black grass and looks stunning when edging a border with its strappy leaves but it’s also suitable for underplanting shrubs as it only grows to around 30cm tall. This grass is so versatile as it’s evergreen, and will grow in most soils and loves sunny or part sunny gardens and can be used in containers too. This grass is shown edging the paving on the header photo. The blue grass inbetween the box balls is Festuca glauca.
Stipa tenuissima commonly known as pony tail grass is one of my favourites as it looks great in a gravel garden as well as a floral border as it can show off other plants such as Pittosporum in this photo. It’s such a tactile plant that you want to run your hands through it when you walk past. Its really mesmerising to watch when a breeze blows through a mature clump too.
Although it’s classed as semi-evergreen, the grasses look great over winter too. Then in spring they produce lovely fresh green thin foliage which matures to a golden yellow with fluffy plumes of silvery green flowers. They grow to around 60cm tall and prefer full sun in any soil type as long as it’s well drained.
If you’re looking for a tall grass for the back of a border, there are two that I love – one is Stipa Gigantea which has stunning oat-like seed heads and the other is Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ which is an upright grass and ideal to create a screen as they grow to around 1.5m tall.
In the photo below, the designer has used a cor-ten steel panel which creates a more contemporary style and helps the plants stand out from the green hedge (great for breaking up a green wall) with a mixture of tall and short grasses to create a modern vibe which is softened by the grasses by making it tactile.
Grasses look great planted with all sorts of flowering perennials, personally I like Verbena bonariensis with tall wirey stems and a purple bobble-headed flower (which are also loved by pollinators). You could use the ‘Lollipop’ variety with the pony tail grass as its much shorter. There are so many other perennials you can use with grasses such as these pink Astrantias and Achillias shown below. Alternatively you can plant with bulbs such as Alliums as shown in the second photo below.
Other grasses you can include in your borders are:
Lagurus ovatus commonly known as Bunnytail grass – super fluffy flower heads approx 4 months after sowing. Loves full sun and grows to around 40cm tall.
Carex oshimensis – fantastic evergreen grass with white margins. Another mound forming grass with insignificant flowers. Grows to around 40cm tall and prefers sun or partial shade in all soil types as long as its well drained.
Miscanthus – there are lots of varieties to choose from, but the flower heads are so silky and lovely to touch and ideal for the mid/back of the border (or large pot) as some varieties can grow to 1.5m+ tall.
Care & Maintenance
Maintenance and care of grasses is fairly simple and straightforward. Cut back deciduous grasses in spring and ‘comb out’ dead leaves of the evergreen types. Then divide congested clumps in spring. You’ll be pleased to know that grasses don’t need feeding as they’re not a fan of nitrogen.