Landscape Grasses – Constant Modifications


I’m recycling this post and adding some pertinent pictures because of an amazing couple of weeks – maybe month – of people asking questions about grasses.

Every year it seems we read about yet another incredibly attractive grass species. We watch as these hybridized and developed new and altered species express all that the clump grasses – and even lawn grasses – do to make themselves so appealing. Hybridized lawn grasses are in a constant search for a turf grass which won’t require using so much water to stay green and very substantial progress has been and is being made. But they are for another time. This is the Landscape Grass realm.

Landscape Grasses

(click any image to enlarge)


Comfortable small clumps such as these gorgeous small grasses shown here at the Portland Chinese Garden influence a walk, softening the impact of transitional areas and making them every bit as important to attend as the larger plants and views beyond them. Our attention begins at where we walk and it is plain to see these borders are a welcoming type.

Other grasses are hugely different – and serve different effects. The grasses below frame a Junior High School sign. As they develop, they nearly overwhelm it with silky seed fronds  and the inherent yellow tints of the leaves themselves.

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And, reaching larger dimensions, no grass discussion ever seems complete with mention of the Pampas Grasses we have all come to enjoy so much. Set here amid a rather stunning “All Grass” landscape design, complete with at least 3 different species comprising the entirety of this massed landscape planting, we see the effectiveness of form and structure as well as the simple beauty of the plants themselves.

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Smaller grasses are equally effective when massed, as could be expected. Reliable, tough grasses survive and thrive in our landscapes requiring little outside of the odd yearly “haircut”. They are neither water or maintenance hogs, seemingly impervious to many of the diseases and problems in more delicate species. Full sun? No problem? Part sun?  Take us there. Not great soil? Yum! This is an easy plant to come to like!

Some are just plain pretty all on their own, too:


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And they are even nicer in numbers –  in a grouping, changing the hard lines of cement planters and streets to a softer, less angular existence.

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These landscape grasses can come in some startlingly understated form, small, wispy, wind-affected silk flags coming out of the ground around us. Put together they make a stunning mass of unique and surprising color.

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This is my “Blond Bed”.  😉

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Famous for their beautiful electric pink seed fronds, these “Muhley Grasses” at the entry to Yew Dell Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky, show another amazing possibility in the use of grass for color as well as form.

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Easy-to-maintain, hardy and somewhat drought-tolerant, grasses of all kinds are making a monster inroad into the thinking of landscape designers. The newer varieties of these beauties are tending towards more color, more variegation, more amazing seed colors, silkier textures and just generally yet more applications within landscapes. Many of these grasses have been used even in the distant past, yet the newer stuff just keeps coming with wonderful new cultivars of impressive beauty and form.

I say keep it up.

5 thoughts on “Landscape Grasses – Constant Modifications

  1. Properly placed (by someone like you!), I think grasses are just as exciting as flowers. I absolutely love that Muhly Grass…Frances @ Fairegarden always has wonderful photos of her grasses.
    .-= Nancy Bond´s last blog ..What The Garden Teaches =-.

  2. Hi Steve, I love grasses too, as you know. Thinking about all grass beds has me wondering about interplanting with bulbs to add interest when the grasses are cut down in late winter. If there is room for them. I tried adding Allium Purple Sensation to the muhly and the grass roots prevented the alliums from returning after the first year. At least that is my theory. Perhaps daffodils would be a good bedpartner? Someday I hope to see that Portland garden, if only for the paving! 🙂
    .-= Frances´s last blog ..In The Mood =-.

  3. I love grasses – especially when they’re native to an area and grow without much effort, rather than fighting the local climate and guzzling water just to try and survive. Cool post.

  4. Thanks, Sam. And yes, grass’s easy maintenance routine can include a drought-tolerance as well as a wet one – either way. It’s versatile and gorgeous.

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