Garden Grasses: Quick, Easy, Restless, and Exciting To Grow

Have you discovered the grace and charm that certain ornamental grasses can bring to your garden? They’re quick, easy, and exciting to grow. There are both annual and perennial types.

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Some are majestic giants for backgrounds, screens, hedges, and exclamation points (not to mention the vain beauties that love to sit beside a tranquil stream or pool for reflection!).

Use Grasses Imaginatively

Intermediate sizes are suitable for borders. Charm-packed midgets are good for edgings, paths, and rock gardens. Soft colors of plumy flower heads and diversity of form and foliage make ornamental grasses invaluable, too, for fresh and dried arrangements.

Although grasses will grow anywhere, they share a particular fondness for warm, sunny positions and good moisture-retentive loam. Given these, colors are intensified, plumes and spikelets are firm and luxuriant, and foliage stays healthy and attractive all season.

There’s edging and rock garden delight in such grasses as hare’s tail grass (Lagurus ovatus) that bears quantities of thick, furry soft flower heads only eight to ten inches high above tight leaf mounds; and the extremely decorative tufted bluegrass (Festuca ovina glauca).

Although actually a perennial grass, festuca requires annual treatment in extremely cold climates. You can start it early indoors. Elegant is the word for these dense, blue-green clumps of band-box neat foliage. 

They are beautifully out of the ordinary among bold, bright edgings or along a sunny path. In rockeries, they are cool foils for bright colors.

Grasses Make Delightful Bouquets

The so-called bouquet grasses can be grown in a vegetable garden row since they are primarily for cutting. 

How delightful it is to grow and gather generous quantities of such quaking grasses as the Brizas (both minor and maxima) with their dainty strawlike hearts that dance and quiver at the slightest movement of air.

Cloud grass, ruby grass, and love grass (these are Agrostis nebulosa, Tricholaena rosea, and Agrostis elegans, respectively), each blossom into airy, delicate clouds.

Squirrel-tail grass (Hordeum jubatum) is lovely when the flower plumes begin to droop heavily, then burst into long silky iridescent fans. Best of all, these grasses bear for a long time if they are gathered frequently.

Bold Grasses For Accent

Among large sizes of easy-to-grow ornamental grasses, you come first to the vivid color stripes in the foliage of rainbow corn, perfect for separating the vegetable garden from the rest!

The mahogany, white-tipped wands of Pennisetum japonica, or fountain grass may have misty rose and purple plumes as Pennisetum rupelli, and as Pennisetum macrourum, striking tones of rich coppery bronze.

Possibly the most beautiful of all the giant ornamental grasses is pampas grass (Cortaderia argentea)—with towering, majestic heads that are bold in accent but never overpowering. 

Borne in late summer, these remain spectacular for weeks. Cortaderia selloana will be white or pink, while Cortaderia rudius-cula will provide deeper colors but less height. 

Where it is not hardy pampas grass needs to start early indoors each year unless its roots are lifted and stored over winter. Few plants can outdo pampas grass for quick screens, dramatic accents, or impact!

The silver and green cascades of eulalia (Miscanthus sinensis) bring tranquility to lawns or dividing lines. Being one of the few ornamental types of grass that fully winter hardy in northern states, it becomes even more lovely as it gets established and endures for years. 

The stipas, both Schefflera elegantissima, with bearded purple spikelets, and Schefflera pennata, conspicuously feathered of a plume, are called variously feather, needle, or spear grass. 

These are 2½ – to three-foot grasses, half their height given to the beautiful feathers. They make conversation clumps, whatever their position.

How To Grow These Grasses

The ornamental grasses do not need special care and upkeep. From the day they’re sown in containers of ordinary garden loam (early, in the North), or even directly in the ground, they pose no problems.

They germinate strongly, growing fast as seedlings, so quickly in fact that they need thinning ruthlessly while still small to ensure ample room for strong root development.

In final positions, the grasses (except for the midgets) need a generous foot of space per seedling no matter how hard it is to think of them as ever requiring it tit the time! They’re amazingly fast. Full sun, well-drained loam, and plenty of water are the only encouragements necessary to bring them to their full potentials of flower and foliage.

In moderate climates where perennial grasses behave as such, their clumps require dividing after becoming thoroughly established. This is easily accomplished in early spring or fall by lifting the cluster and cutting it into pieces several inches across.

Discard the hard woody center. Neglect this one chore, permitting matted knitting of the root mass, and the clump takes on a scraggly look, entirely foreign to its natural beauty.