Ornamental Grasses add texture and motion to the garden in any season, but it is in autumn when seed heads form that ornamental grasses and their look-alike cousins sedges and rushes are most intriguing. From the gracefully arching, six-foot plumes of Stipa (Giant Feather Grass) that tower over the garden to the fuzzy dusters protruding from clumps of Festuca (Fescue) that tickle our legs as we weed, the seed pods of decorative grasses charm and delight.
In the garden decorative grasses provide a dramatic backdrop for flowering plants. Because of the tremendous variety of ornamental grasses, one variety can add exciting vertical height to the garden while another draws the eye downward, calling attention to low-growing Sedum (Stonecrop) or providing a contrasting background for delicate Petunias (Petunia). Use grasses as eye-catching specimen plants, to edge garden beds, provide contrast in perennial borders or add interest to rock gardens. Some species like Liriope, also known as spider grass, provide excellent soil stabilization and erosion control in mass plantings on slopes.
Wherever used, ornamental grasses make a garden come alive. Gentle breezes wafting through the garden set grass stalks in motion in an undulating wave of soft color. In fall, feathery seed pods bob and dance joyfully on the wind. Ornamental grasses generally tolerate average to poor soil conditions, and many are heat and drought-tolerant. Allow ornamental grasses to remain in the garden uncut over the winter to provide definition and add visual interest to the winter garden. Cut grasses back in early spring when new growth appears.
Interesting ornamental grasses:
- Festuca (Fescue). Clumping mounds of sea green foliage with tufted seed pods.
- Juncus (Sedge, also Umbrella Plant). Upright, wispy-fanned water plant.
- Liriope (Spider Grass). Tumbled runners of variegated, thick-bladed foliage.
- Pennisetum Rubrum (Rubrum, also Purple Fountain Grass). Narrow burgundy leaves with feathery plumes.
- Stipa (Giant Feather Grass). Tall, arching foliage with golden panicles.