Once upon a time gardens were made up of shrubs, trees and a few flowers. As exploration around the world presented more and more plants to the avid gardener, designing landscapes became more creative. Following discoveries came plant breeders who not only increased the availability of interesting plants, but became creative themselves by crossing species and developing more beautiful, adaptable and sustainable varieties. Along with all these changes, gardens benefited by discovering new kinds of plants — like ornamental grasses — had a lot to offer in texture, color and design effects. Decorative grasses are now a major building block of many gorgeous gardens in both private and public displays.
Grasses are still being used for lawns, but even lawn varieties have expanded to grow in a wider range of soils and climates. The flowering heads — inflorescences — are not usually as colorful as many garden flower petals, but add delicate sculptural shapes that dance gracefully in the breeze. Most ornamental grasses add that element of movement to a garden whether they are in bloom or not. The upright foliage also offers a vertical shape so often missing with the mounding growth habits of other most garden plants.
Another fine use of ornamental grasses is for foliage color. Some grasses or grass-like plants (like the Phormium or New Zealand Flax) are stained, splashed, striped or speckled with colors as showy as blooms. But colorful foliage doesn’t fade out when flowering is done. Colorful grasses can create interest in a flower bed long after all the flowers have faded away.
There are grasses that like it hot and those that like it cool. Some demand rich soil while others thrive where little else will grow. Find the right kind of ornamental grass for the conditions of your landscape and you can create a whole dimension of texture and color.
By the way, if you happen to have cats, flowering stalks make irresistible two-second cat toys. True, they won’t last long, but they are safe, natural and you’ll probably get lots of them!
A whole world of plant effects can be designed with ornamental grasses