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Landscaping Grasses - Backyard Designs And Ideas

By Edited Mar 26, 2016 1 2

Grasses, sedges and rushes all have, to some extent, long linear leaves that can create a very fine texture in a planting scheme. They can be introduced into a number of different planting situations in order to give a wide range of effects, from the little blue fescue grass –Festuca Glauca – which forms low clumps and is good for edging, to the tall, flowering plumes of pampas grass – Cortaderia selloana – a stately plant which can be a garden feature in its own right.

Since the grasses are evergreen, they can be used to give a permanent shape to herbaceous borders and flower beds. Their texture forms a go

landscaping grasses (34185)
od contrast to perennial flowering broadleaved plants during the summer months and they then give a winter interest to the beds. It is better to avoid any of the decorative grasses that may become invasive, such as the aptly named gardener's gaiters – Phalaris arundinacea picta. Feathertop – Pennisetum villosum – is a useful grass which does not spread quickly. It has long haired stems growing to a height of about three feet and creamy-pink spikelets in the autumn. Miscanthus sinensis is another clump-forming (rather than spreading) grass. It grows to four feet and has green leaves, hairy beneath, with yellowish white ring markings.

Many of the more spreading decorative grasses and sedges can of course be used with considerable effect as ground cover plants. In difficult moist areas with brackish water Schoenoplectus lacustris, a most attractive sedge with leafless stems, striped horizontally with white, and orange spikelets in the summer, will quickly establish itself. Glyceria maxima and Arundo donax, in their variegata form, are both grasses with cream-striped leaves and white or pale green spikelets in the summer. Both spread by rhizomes and are both decorative and useful in areas needing ground cover.

Apart from their use with other plants, grasses can be absolutely stunning if used together in a grass specific bed. As with any planting, the scale of this has to fit the size of the garden. If the garden is only a few metres square, great patches of 7 feet high pampas grass and 8ft high golden oats are quite simply inappropriate. The plants deserve more space than this. On the other hand a small garden could be planted to great effect with well spaced out clumps of some of the shorter grasses: blue oat grass – Helictotrichon sempervirens – forms a rounded clump two to three feet high, with tufted, stiff, silvery blue leaves; blue grama – Bouteloua gracilis – grows to about 20 inches and has comb like flowers held at right angles to its leaves; Cyperus involucratis is a sedge which tolerates drier conditions than most sedges and has leaf-like bracts beneath its white flowers on triangular stems growing to three feet in height; Carex hachijoensis is another lovely sedge, golden this time and only growing to about a foot in height, although the striped leaves will spread outwards. A good red grass will be an eye- catcher – Hakonechloa macra aureola has purple stems and green-striped yellow leaves that turn red as the summer advances; its red flower spikelets can last into winter.

Where there is plenty of space, the grasses can be seen to advantage. They can be planted together, designing the bed as would be done for a border of flower bed, with the tallest at the back, or, and probably more effectively, they can be grown well-spaced out. This works best as a visual effect if the ground is kept completely free of any other plants and is covered with sand or fine pale gravel. The sand shows off the grasses to their best advantage and, both by its texture and its colour, provides a fine contrast. The grasses should be planted so that their admirers can walk among and between them. There is enough variety of grasses for a grass design such as this. As well as the pampas grass and golden oats, the taller grasses include such beauties as Cortaderia selloana silver comet, a grass with very narrow leaves with silver margins and great plumes of silver spikelets rising above them to a height of five or six feet. Miscanthus sinensis is a clump-forming dark green grass which grows to four or five feet; it has very narrow leaves, which turn bronze in late summer. In between the tall grasses great clumps of the shorter grasses described above will provide a pleasing contrast.



Dec 5, 2010 11:15pm
Never new there were so many kinds of grass, Thumbs up from me on this one!!(~;
Dec 5, 2010 11:17pm
Even after doing this article I'm still not sure there are so many grasses! Thanks dreamaker.
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