Grasses can be used as screens, focus plants or useful additions in compositions and they can establish themselves permanently in the garden.
The main aim of this article is to outline the main uses of grasses in landscaping.
Creative and imaginative gardeners will obviously be able to add to our list!
Planting grasses as screens
Planted alone or in groups, grasses can be an ideal solution to hide a neighbour’s ugly wall or to avoid being overlooked. For the best effect, it’s good to choose varieties that grow thickly and hold themselves upright.
Top 3: Miscanthus giganteus, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspine’, Miscanthus ‘Cosmopolitan’
Tip: planting can be linear or for more depth plant in a triangle in groups of three plants. All the tall grasses are deciduous in winter and they should therefore be cut back to 10 cm at the beginning of the spring. The shredded leaves make an excellent mulch.
An elegant and refined décor for a terrace, courtyard or patio
Evergreen, robust and easy to maintain, grasses provide colourful ever-moving and long-lasting scenery. On a terrace, a wall or simply on a windowsill, you can play with contrasts by varying species or associating grasses with perennials.
Top 5 for a 30 cm diameter container: Carex, Stipa tenuifolia, Hakonechloa , Agropyron magellanicum, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’.
Top 5 for a container of minimum 45 litres: Miscanthus ‘Yaku Shima’, Panicum virgatum ‘Franz Herms’, Stipa arundinacea, Miscanthus ‘Purple Fall’, Setaria palmiflora.
Tip: buying a good quality grass from our online catalogue is a first step 😉 The second is to thoroughly prepare the growing medium. It should be fertile, well-drained and soft.
When you grow grasses in pots, we recommend a mixture made up of: 20% good garden soil, 20% mixed porous elements (pozzolan 5 mm), 60% fibrous horticultural compost. Nutrients: compost (organic compost/mulch such as Fibralgo or Or brun ) + 250 g slow-release fertilizer (Osmocote) per 100 litres of growing medium.
A bed of grasses in the garden
In large gardens you can plant grasses in beds in front of shrubs and thus give texture to the garden design by making a natural transition from a more open space to a hedge.
Top 5: Cortaderia selloana, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Cosmopolitan’, Miscanthus ‘Mornight light’, Panicum virgatum ‘Squaw’, Schizachyrium scoparium
Tip: by choosing several varieties, you can play with different shapes, create contrasts and perspectives and enhance the effect in the same bed. You can arrange planting in clumps of different varieties with 3, 5 or 7 plants each to make things easier.
An island of softness
Urban gardens often have a lot of built elements and masonry, whether its a wall, a driveway, a swimming pool or a terrace.
Grasses’ upright habit together with the cascade effect of their leaves, even when they are planted alone , can soften a harsh concrete environment or highlight the edge of a swimming pool with an elegant curve.
Tip: By the side of a swimming pool, Miscanthus and Panicum keep their foliage throughout the summer season. The water in the pool remains clean and swimmers can enjoy themselves without worrying about bees!
Grasses and low-growing shrubs go well together
Grasses are not generally associated with topiary, but this can provide sustainable contrasts of shape and colour.
Examples: Carex elata ‘Aurea’ and Buxus suffruticosa, Sesleria automnalis and Berberis thunbergi, Dwarf honeysuckle with Ophiopogon ‘Black Dragon’
In a formal garden, grasses can be used in symmetrical compositions, whether planted in the ground or in pots to enhance a perspective, a doorway, a path or a pergola.
Top 3: Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’
Evergreen grasses give structure to a garden and provide interest throughout the winter. Planted at regular intervals, on their own or in groups of three of the same variety they give rhythm to a bed.
We could almost associate a grass to every perennial in order to create contrasts of shape and colour, harmonies of shade and visual effects given the amazing diversity of the plant kingdom.
Top 5: Deschampsia cespitosa, Eragrostis trichodes, Stipa tenuifolia, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Helictotrichon.
Here comes winter.
Dried clumps of grasses masked with frost create some of the most attractive sights in winter. They provide shelter for animals and a food store for birds.
Deciduous species should be pruned at the end of winter with secateurs or shears just before the vegetation starts growing again. The acquisition of a garden shredder will considerably reduce the volume of green waste and produce good quality mulch.
For more information:
Please browse to our online catalogue of ornamental grasses There is an exceptional selection classified according to plant height or use.
Reference book: The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes by Rick Darke
www.oudolf.com : from inspiration to creation. A superb site which presents the work of Piet Oudolf, an internationally renowned contemporary garden designer.