Brochures

Perennials & Ponds

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are a large group of plants that are gaining popularity and becoming an essential element in landscape designs today. They make very dramatic impacts on our landscapes, as well as add multi-season interest. They have the versatility and adaptability to grow in any landscape, as well as the diversity in forms to lend themselves to any design.

Ornamental grasses are praised for their versatility. They can be used as specimens, en mass, in groups, as a hedge or screen, as borders, scattered throughout beds and in containers. They have different shapes which can be used in various settings. A vase-shaped grass would make a striking addition to any formal landscape. A tall upright grass would make a great screen, while a short mounding grass makes a suitable border.

The varying textures of grasses can create different themes within your landscape. A fine textured grass might have a very graceful, elegant habit which would soften a planting. A stiff upright grass makes a great focal point or specimen. A loose form lends itself to a cottage garden.

Grasses also add colour to landscapes. The most common colour of ornamental grass is green but there are blue, golden, red, bronze, black, purple, orange, silver and striped (vertically & horizontally) varieties. When grasses bloom their flower and seed heads also add a splash of colour.

Grasses add multi-season interest to gardens. They are especially valuable in the fall and winter. Dramatic seed heads and fall colour are welcome additions when most perennials are being cut down. Some grasses will hold their shape in the winter. Even with snow on the ground, this can add interest to what can often be very dismal landscapes.

By examining light and movement you can creatively enhance areas with the addition of a grass. Grasses have translucence to them. Depending on the time of day or year, the light will catch the leaf blades and flower heads differently, adding vibrancy to the landscape. Grasses tend to be lightweight and therefore move with winds. This movement adds another dimension to the landscape.

Ornamental grasses are very adaptable. There are so many varieties available today and more and more being introduced each year. You can find a grass for any location! Different types of grass have different requirements so finding a culturally compatible grass should not be difficult. There are two different classifications for grasses - cool season and warm season.

Cool season grasses begin growing in early spring, flower in spring and summer, and then growth slows or stops in the hot summer weather. Many cool season grasses are evergreen requiring trimming or raking out rather than cutting back.

Warm season grasses begin their growth when temperatures begin to warm up in the spring, flower and set seed in summer and fall, and then become dormant with the onset of winter. Many warm-season grasses have fall colour. They will require cutting back in the early spring.

Whether creating a new garden or planning your containers don’t forget to try an ornamental grass.

Here are some charts to aid in selecting grasses for your landscape:

 

NAME

COOL/WARM SEASON

CLUMP FORMING

Alopecurus - Foxtail Grass

cool

yes

Arrhenatherum - Bulbous Oat Grass

cool

yes

Briza - Quaking Grass

cool

yes

Calamagrostis - Reed Grass

cool

yes

Carex – Sedge

not a true grass

yes

Chasmanthium – Northern Sea Oats

warm

no

Deschampsia - Hair Grass

cool

yes

Festuca - Blue Fescue

cool

yes

Hakonechloa – Hakone Grass

warm

no

Helictotrichon - Blue Oat Grass

cool

yes

Imperata - Blood Grass

warm

no

Juncus - Spiral Rush

not a true grass

no

Koeleria - June Grass

cool

yes

Luzula - Wood Rush

not a true grass

yes

Milium – Millet

cool

no

Miscanthus - Maiden Grass

warm

yes

Molinia - Moor Grass

warm

yes

Panicum - Switch Grass

warm

yes

Pennisetum – Fountain Grass

warm

yes

Phalaris - Ribbon Grass

cool

no

 


Grasses with showy seed heads

Feather Grass

Feather Reed Grass

Fountain Grass

Hair Grass

Maiden Grass

Moor Grass

Mosquito grass

Northern Sea Oats

Quaking Grass

Sedge

Switch Grass

 




Grasses with good winter interest

Blue Fescue

Blue Oat Grass

Feather Reed Grass

Feather Grass

Maiden Grass

Northern Sea Oats

Spiral Rush

Switch Grass

Wood Rush




Grasses tolerant of wet soils

Hair Grass

Maiden Grass

Moor Grass

Northern Sea Oats

Ribbon Grass

Sedge

Spiral Rush



Drought Tolerant Grasses

Blue Fescue

Blue Oat Grass

Bulbous Oat Grass

Feather Reed Grass

June Grass

Quaking Grass

Switch Grass




Variegated Grasses

Blood Grass

Bulbous Oat Grass

Feather Reed Grass

Foxtail Grass

Hakone Grass

Maiden Grass

Moor Grass

Ribbon Grass

Sedge

Spiral Rush

Wood Rush

 




Tall Grasses – 3 feet or more

Blue Oat Grass

Feather Reed Grass

Hair Grass

Karl Foerster Grass

Maiden Grass

Moor Grass

Northern Sea Oats

Ribbon Grass

Switch Grass




Blue leaved Grasses

Blue Fescue

Blue Oat Grass

June Grass

Switch Grass