Ornamental grasses have grown in popularity, and whether hardy perennial grasses, tender tropical grasses or both are used, they will create interesting features.
Grasses are great in containers because they combine well with other plants but can stand on their own. Purple fountain grass will give height and texture to a mixed container, while fibre optic grass creates interest in containers by themselves.
When you use grasses exclusively, consider those with unusual colour or texture in coloured containers.
Clumps of grasses planted here and there in borders add interest and texture, and their grassy foliage contrasts with the mounded forms of nearby plants.
Use grasses with an upright growth habit, such as Karl Forrester feather reed grass, to give a vertical dimension to a border or use clumps of softly textured grasses, such as blue fescue, to soften the front edge of a bed.
Ornamental grasses will help to soften areas such as driveways, patios and pool decks. Grasses are good choices because they create less litter than other plants.
Create a formal feel in part of the garden by planting a clump of tall grass in each of two matching and equally stunning containers and use them as gateposts to a garden room or entranceway.
Clumps of medium height and tall grasses such as variegated Overdam feather reed grass and ribbon grass make great focal points when placed further back in a border.
No plant performs as well as grasses to create autumn and winter accents. Left intact, clumps of ornamental grasses will provide vivid accents in the fall and winter landscape.
Grasses can also accentuate garden art. A clump of upright grass situated beside a garden sculpture acts as a foil for the art piece, creating a perfect tableau.
Ornamental grasses attract birds to the garden. Birds will feed on the seed heads and perch on the stalks, particularly in the winter.
Tall grasses create a screen to separate a utilitarian area of the garden, such as a vegetable patch, from the rest of the landscape. A few well-placed clumps will stop the eye from focusing beyond the grass clumps.
Many shorter grasses, such as variegated oat grass, have tawny, blue or even variegated foliage and make excellent ground covers.
In some situations, a mass planting of a medium height grass, such as ribbon grass, makes a good ground cover that is easy care and drought tolerant.
Xeriscapes are perfect settings for clumping grasses. They add texture, colour and interest to a xeriscape in combination with decorative rocks and objects.
If interested in creating a natural meadow garden, choose native grasses to accompany the indigenous flowering plants to add authenticity to the meadow.
Albert Parsons has a diploma in horticulture from Guelph University. He operates a garden design/landscape consultation business from his home in Minnedosa, Man. Contact: [email protected]