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Sandhurst Garden Design

Ornamental grass in a garden

Late summer and into Autumn are when ornamental grasses really come into their own, the low angle of the sun at this time of year shows them off at their best backlit by the early morning or afternoon sun silhouetting their outline is pure elegance.

Ornamental grasses are versatile, hardy and bring movement, texture and height into your garden borders. They can be used as a specimen plant providing a focal point, dotted through borders, perfect for a gravel garden or planted in containers.

Grasses are easy to care for, they like a sunny open spot with well-drained soil, and make great companion plants in borders, providing vertical height and drama, as well as movement in the slightest of breeze.

There are lots of varieties to choose from, and I only have space to select a few, but it is important that you plant your chosen ornamental grass at the right time of year to suit the plant.

Deschampsia, festuca, helictotrichon and stipa varieties have their growth rate in late winter and flower before mid-summer, so plant them in the Autumn. Miscanthus, Panicum and Pennisetum do their growing in late spring and flower after mid-summer and usually cut back in later winter, so best planted in late spring.

Ornamental grass in the garden

Two of the best mound forming varieties are Festuca glauca ‘Elijah blue’ with its blue spikey foliage that does best in full sun and Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’ that has arching stems of green/yellow that mature to green/gold before dying back and prefers a shadier spot. Perfect for containers or edging a border. 40cms

Deschampsia cespitosa this perennial evergreen grass forms a neat clump with masses of airy flowers on slender stems that tolerate some shade and once fully established is drought tolerant 90cms.

Helictotrichon sempervirens or ‘Blue Oat Grass’ this evergreen grass has tightly rolled blue-grey foliage that form a neat mound, perfect for planting with Mediterranean style plants or in a gravel garden 60cms.

Stipa Gigantea or ‘Giant Golden Oats’ this semi-evergreen plant has large heads of oat like flowers above a mound of green foliage. Although tall at 2.5m, this plant is airy with arching see-through stems so just right for a specimen plant in your border.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ sometimes called ‘Chinese Silver grass’ 1.30 m is ideal for the back of a border. It has copper-coloured tassel-like plumes that if left on the plant, look great in winter covered by sparkling frost.

Panicum Virgatum ‘Rehbraun or ‘Switch Grass’ this deciduous grass has clusters of tiny purple-green pendant shaped flowers on upright green foliage which turns a gorgeous reddish-purple in autumn. 75cms

Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ sometime called ‘Fountain Grass’, this grass has deep burgundy foliage with a bristly red-purple flower spikes, looks great grown in a container but will need some winter protection. 60cms.

If you can find space to include an ornamental grass or two in your garden borders, it will make a great addition to your garden.

Until next time




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