Grasses are loved for their natural beauty, versatility and elegance and rightly earn their place as indispensable plants in a garden. They can play a key part in a variety of design situations, and provide a stylish and dependable presence in the garden throughout the year which makes them especially valuable. We look at some great ways that grasses have been used in garden designs.
Blocks of Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’ are used in a minimalist and contemporary design. The gold flower heads contrast with the dark background and harmonise with the rich copper and buttery tones of the surrounding planting.
A path winds itself through blocks of tall grasses and drifts of perennials in this garden designed by Dan Pearson.
Grasses are expertly interwoven amongst perennials in this contemporary courtyard garden by Tom Stuart Smith.
A more restful and relaxed planting scheme of grasses and herbaceous perennials by Tom Stuart Smith (above) and an informal herbaceous border by Dan Pearson (below) with grasses and perennials beautifully combined.
Stipa tenuissima add a light and airy feel to this country garden border (above), whilst Stipa gigantea are used as a focal point in this dry gravel garden (below).
Grasses form an integral part of this traditional herbaceous border at RHS Wisley, and provide rhythm and repetition to the planting.
Grasses combined together can result in some effective planting combinations where the interest is provided by the contrasting textures.
Sprays of shimmering flowerheads punctuate the planting of this garden by Piet Oudolf in the prairie style.
The ethereal qualities of grasses can give a planting scheme drama and beauty, and provide a perfect foil for contrasting plant forms such as the spires and round flower heads below.
The textural qualities of grasses add movement and life to a border. In this garden of Christopher Bradley Hole, grasses billow out on to the gravel path (above), and the flower heads provide a golden haze above the lower growing foliage (below).
Some of the most desirable and useful grasses are:
The pheasants tail grass has a pleasing arching habit. It has purple tinged flower spikes in summer and the evergreen leaves turn a rust brown in winter.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
A taller grass with an upright habit, Calamagrostis lends an architectural presence to the garden and can be used to add a strong vertical line to planting. Its useful in a variety of design situations and great for providing winter interest.
The tufted hair grass is a clump forming grass with a cloud of flowers. Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’ and the shorter ‘Goldtau’ put on a display of shimmering gold flowers.
A beautiful slow growing evergreen grass with a clump forming habit. It is useful in a variety of design situations. H. macra ‘Aureola’ has arching lime green thinly striped leaves.
The great woodrush is lower growing with strap like evergreen leaves. It can be useful as ground cover or as front of border planting.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’
This is a very useful grass that can provide a structural element to a scheme. It has a mass of narrow curved green leaves with white midribs and a graceful presence in winter.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’
M. sinensis ‘Malepartus’ has a cascade of green foliage and feathery coppery brown flowerheads from late summer. It’s considered one of the easiest of the miscanthus to establish.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’
Similar in appearance to M. sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ but with a more upright habit. Its eye catching variegation make it an interesting focal point plant for the border or container.
Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’
A taller grass with an open growth habit, ‘Transparent’ has a haze of flower heads that move with the wind.
Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’
Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’ has beautiful autumn colour when its leaves turn red. This grass is good in any garden soil in full sun.
A large grass that grows into broad evergreen clumps with long stems and oat like flowers. Flowers from early summer to late summer.
This neat and compact grass has soft feathery stems with pale green flowerheads and the fine leaves gently wave in the slightest breeze. A great grass for providing interest through movement.
Inspiration and photo credits:
Tom Stuart Smith www.tomstuartsmith.co.uk
Dan Pearson www.danpearsonstudio.com
Piet Oudolf www.oudolf.com
Christopher Bradley Hole www.bhsla.co.uk
All other photography: copyright Garden Design Eye