Ornamental grasses can play a part in most gardens, from providing calming accompaniments to more colourful flowering plants to being the sole focus of the design. There are grasses for damp or dry soil, shady as well as sunny situations. Many are great to add to the cutting garden; others perform well in containers.
Cultivation: ornamental grasses tolerate a wide range of conditions, but most like a sunny position in light, moist but well-drained, moderately fertile soil. They do not need much feeding; this can encourage lush foliage at the expense of flowers. One application of a balanced fertiliser in spring is adequate.
Planting: It's important to plant grasses at the correct time. Grasses from cool climates such as Deschampsia, Festuca, Helictotrichon and Stipa come into growth in late winter and flower before mid-summer and so should be planted in autumn for the best establishment. Grasses from warm climates such as Miscanthus, Panicum, Pennisetum and Spartina come into growth in late spring, flower after mid-summer and are usually cut back in late winter. They are best planted in late spring.
Container cultivation: Grasses are good plants for containers. Use loam-based compost, such as John Innes No 2 with 20% loam-free compost to lighten the mix. Evergreen grasses such as Carex combine well with winter bedding to give height and a contrast in texture.
Feather Reed Grass.Small weed. Clump-forming perennial grass with arching green leaves with pale yellow margins and stripes which fade to pinkish white. Bears purple flowers that fade to greyish pink. Height 1.2m. Spread 60cm. Flowers from July to August. Semi-Evergreen.
Feather Reed Grass.Smallweed. Clump-forming perennial grass with arching mid-green leaves. Erect stems of pink-bronze flowers that fade to pale brown. Height 1.8m. Spread 60cm. Flower colour Pink. Brown. Flowers from July to August. Semi-Evergreen. Foliage colour Green. Hardy. Planting instructions Water thoroughly before planting.
A small compact growing grass with thin corn-yellow coloured leaves that are margined with a thin dark-green line. Very graceful and superb for planting in groups with other grasses and in containers too
New Zealand Hair Sedge. Dense evergreen clumps of narrow hair-like light whitish green leaves.Compact habit. Inconspicuous whitish green flower spikes. Height 45cm. Flowers from June to February. Evergreen.
Bowls Golden Sedge. Elegant clumps of richly golden yellow leaves with green margins and jet-black flower spikes. Green and brown flower spikes. Height 70cm. Spread 90cm. Flowers from April to June. Deciduous. Hardy.
Sedge. Lustrous narrow green leaves beautifully margined with white forming stiff clumps. Green and brown flower spikes. Height 60cm. Spread 75cm. Flowers from April to June. Evergreen. Hardy.
A dense mound forming Carex with a distinctive white mid stripe which makes the foliage stand out in the winter months.
Unusual olive green arching leaves, turning orange in full sun. Moist soil.
Pampas Grass. Densely tufted. clump-forming perennial grass with arching mid-green leaves and tall stems of silky silvery plumes. Height 2.5-3m. Spread 1.5m. Flowers from August to September. Evergreen. Foliage colour Green. Hardy. Planting instructions Water thoroughly before planting.
Pampas Grass. Densely tufted. clump-forming perennial grass with arching mid-green leaves. Tall stems of silky. silvery plumes tinted pink. Height 2.5-3m. Spread 1.5m. Flower colour Silver. Pink. Flowers from August to September. Evergreen. Foliage colour Green. Hardy. Planting instructions Water thoroughly before planting.
Tufted Hair Grass.Tussock Grass. A dense tufted evergreen grass with narrow rough dark green leaves. Arching panicles of glistening silvery reddish brown spikelets all summer ageing to golden yellow. Height 75cm. Spread 75cm. Flower colour Silver. Red Brown. Yellow. Flowers from May to August. Evergreen. Foliage colour Green. Hardy. Planting instructions Back-fill with soil mixed with peat and a suitable fertiliser.
Wavy Hair Grass. A tufted evergreen grass with thread-like smooth arching yellow-green leaves. Arching panicles of bronze-tinted purple spikelets. Height 50cm. Spread 30cm. Flowers from May to July. Evergreen. Hardy. Planting instructions Back-fill with soil mixed with peat and a suitable fertiliser.
Blue Fescue. A densely tufted evergreen grass with narrow inrolled silvery blue arching leaves. Panicles of silvery blue flowers fading to brown as they seed. Height 30cm. Spread 45cm. Flowers from May to June. Evergreen. Hardy.
An aquatic perennial with narrow green leaves striped cream and white. Panicles of green to purple-green spikelets. Height 80cm. Spread Indefinite. Flowers from July to August. Herbaceous. Hardy.
Blue Oat Grass. An evergreen grass with grey-blue leaves radiating outwards from the centre to form a neat clump. Oat-like flowers are grey-blue at first. quickly turning straw-coloured. Height 1m. Spread 1m. Flower colour Brown. Flowers from May to July. Evergreen. Foliage colour Grey/Blue. Hardy.
Japanese Blood Grass. An attractive grass with narrow yellow-green leaves tipped with red in spring. By mid-summer the whole leaf is red. Height 45cm. Spread 30cm. Herbaceous.
Corkscrew Rush. Densely tufted aquatic perennial with shiny. dark green twisted stems forming a tangled mass. Brown flowers throughout summer. Height 45cm. Spread 60cm. Flowers from June to August. Evergreen. Hardy. Good for both wet and dry soils.
A perennial grass with bright. pale blue-grey. narrow leaves and blue-grey spikelets in summer. Height 1.5m. Spread Indefinite. Flower colour Blue. Grey. Flowers from June to August. Herbaceous. Foliage colour Blue. Grey. Hardy. Planting instructions Water thoroughly before planting.
Bowles' Golden Grass. A slowly spreading bright golden yellow perennial grass with delicate rich golden yellow spikelets. Height 60cm. Spread 30cm. Flowers from May to July. Semi-Evergreen. Hardy.
A tall elegant grass with narrow green leaves which turn orange in autumn and large plumes of feathery flowers which open deep red ageing to pink and silver. Height 1.5m. Spread 1.2m.
A wonderful architectural miscanthus with wider leaves than most and very wide vertical white margins. Copper flowers in late summer.
A robust tall grass. clump forming with very narrow green leaves. Silvery white spikelets August-September. Height 3m. Deciduous. Hardy. Prefers moist soil.
A tall elegant grass with a 2cm wide blade with a broad central white midrib, 1.5m high. Flower plumes open flamingo pink then age to silver.
An elegant grass with narrow green leaves margined creamy white and silvery flower plumes. Height 1m. Spread 5m. Flower colour Silver. Flowers from September to February. Semi-Evgn. Foliage colour Green. White. Hardy. Planting instructions Back-fill with soil mixed with peat and a suitable fertiliser.
Zebra Grass. Elegant grass. Narrow green leaves with bands of yellow and plumes of silver flowers. Height 2.4m. Spread 1.2m. Flowers from September to October. Deciduous. Hardy. Planting instructions Back-fill with soil mixed with peat and a suitable fertiliser.
A elegant, tuft forming grass with narrow arching. shiny green leaves, turning yellow in autumn, and purple flower spikes. Height 1.m. Spread 0.7m.
Lilyturf. A tufted perennial with attractive narrow dark green leaves margined creamy white. Height 10-20cm. Spread 30cm. Insignificant flowers. Evergreen. Fantastic in full to medium shade.
Ophiopogon planiscapus is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae. It is a small evergreen perennial growing to 20 cm tall by 30 cmwide. It grows from short rhizomes, and bears tufts of grasslike leaves, from which purple or white flowers emerge in racemes held on short stems above the leaves. It is native to Japan, where it grows on open and forested slopes.
This grass is big and bold, with large purple, broad leaves. Ideal Conditions: Prefers full sun, or partial shade with free-draining soil or compost. Possible Situation: Use either in the back or middle of a container. Alternatively it is great in the border especially in dramatic in clusters, mass plantings, or along slopes.
Reed Canary Grass. Ribbon Grass. A pretty grass with mid-green and white striped leaves. occasionally striped yellow. Panicles of pale green flushed purple flowers in early summer. Height 1m. Spread Indefinite. Flowers from June to July. Evergreen. Hardy.
Giant Feather Grass. Golden Oats. A perennial grass with narrow dark green leaves. Large open panicles of large golden spikelets in late spring changing to straw-colour. Remains ornamental till the very hard frosts. Height 1.8m. Spread 1.8m. Flowers from May to June. Evergreen. Hardy
Mexican Feather Grass is an unbelievably important plant for the garden. It provides an almost unique texture either individually or, especially, when planted in drifts. Loose tufts of fluffy delicate green leaves wave and flutter in the breeze, resembling an elven shaving brush. Given a position in full sun and dry soil, its uses within the garden are limited purely by your imagination. Stipa tenuissima 'Pony tails' is superlatively effective when grouped together into a soft, swirling ground cover beneath strongly architectural plants like yuccas and dasylirion. It will seed around generously to soften the effect too.
Pheasant's Tail Grass. A perennial grass with narrow leathery dark green arching leaves turning orange-brown in winter. Pendent purplish green spikelets from late summer to late winter. Height 1m. Spread 1.2m. Flowers from August to February. Evergreen. Frost hardy.