Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Going to Grass

Grasses in the garden did not come easily to my garden. We've long fought bermuda and other invasives in flower beds and the thought of grass seemed not quite right. A garden gone to grass used to mean that weeds and grass had taken over. Hotten said in 1859, 'Go to grass!' is a common answer to a troublesome or inquisitive person.

I'm trying some natives. Exotics vetiver grass and cymbopogon have been in place for several years now. I want to expand their use.

Vetiver grass, summer and winter.

Lemon grass, Cymbopogon, used in teas and cooking. My pets like to chew it. I put a potful in the greenhouse, above. They've chewed it back to half. It goes well with butterfly plants and with roses.

This native grass show at left in early fall, now transplanted to my garden along with some Silk Grass.
The bright green in the background is annual ryegrass which gives winter color to the dormant centipede and bahia that form our lawn.

Silk Grass in late fall, just after bloom above left, and in winter after the seeds have dried, righ
Early spring, Silk Grass has blue Foliage.

When we drove from T'ville, GA to Tallahassee, FL recently, huge clumps of pampas grass filled the medians and was along side the highway as well.
A homeowner near here used pampas to good advantage to screen a swimming pool from a side road.

How do you use grasses in your garden?


  1. I'm also wanting to use more and more grasses, especially the tall ones that can be left up for winter. Once spring's excitement is waning, the grasses seem to be just waking up and looking fresh. One I'm hoping will make it through the long winter is the new panicum virgatum cultivar, 'Ruby Ribbons.'

  2. That's a smart use of Pampas grass. I like the look of ornamental grasses. One that grows well here is Mexican Feather Grass. I know lots of people don't like it, but I love how it sways in the wind. I planted some by my back patio as part of a "zen section" of the yard.

  3. I really like your lemon grass. I have a lot of Mexican feathergrass. I saw some pretty combinations in my book using 'little bluestem' which is crimson in the fall and purple coneflowers. Another was the Mexican feathergrass and autumn sage. I would like to plant some blue oat grass. It is often used in place of the plant sotol (ouch). The problem is finding all these plants that I see in books. :/ Some are hard to find.

  4. I had to remove all of the Love Grass as it seeded everywhere.

    I love my miscanthus 'Cosmopolitan', pink mulhly and my sedges (not grasses per se, but used the same way).

    We have pampas to screen an angled view of our garden from the road. I've added a chaste tree to that island bed.


  5. I love ornamental grasses in the garden. My favorites are Panicum virgatum and the Muhlengergia species.

  6. I created a grass bed in front of some farm buildings that were open in the front and stacked full of various and sundry unattractive items. I hoped it would screen them from the road and it does when you are in front of the house....not so when coming down the road approaching us. Now I am thinking of a decorative border along the fence line on that side as well.

  7. Grasses has beauty of their own. In fact that applies to every plants. Your pets chew lemon grass to half, but we purposely trim the grass to half from time to time just to give the clumps a new look.... ~bangchik

  8. I am really starting to take note of more and more ornamental grasses. We have a clump of Pampas grass that was here when we bought the house. They planted it in the wrong spot as it does not flourish as it should. We removed several trees that were shading it in order to build a shed for our boat so the grass gets a bit more sun now. She is slowly coming along and gives more shoots each year then the year before. I am considering adding more grasses to my gardens as I am really starting to like what I am seeing on the blogs with grasses….

  9. The gardens at our previous houses had ornamental grasses but I've only added a few Muhly grasses so far to this garden.
    What interests me is your Vetiver, which is an ingredient in some toiletries. It looks pretty cool - now I wonder how it would do in Austin.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. That vetiver is very original. I like the way it catches the light.

    I don't use grasses (unless you count corn, a highly-bred tropical grass, which I've sometimes grown but won't be this summer).

    I do, however, sometimes mumble abuses at grasses when they volunteer in the veggie beds. ;)

  11. Just getting familiar with different grasses, other than the standard pompass grass which I only like in other peoples yards...I am in Tallahassee.

  12. I've come to grasses rather late in the day. Having spent years battling it as a weed, it's seemed strange to deliberately plant some in my garden. However, I'm planning on learning a lot more about them this year and who knows what might appear in my borders or my blog later on?

  13. We have grass on top of the berm in the corner of our back yard as a sight block. it also looks cool with the snow. Last year, pat and i desided to plant different grasses in the soil tiles and and pots in the back yard. We got the benifit of the look during the summer and we got to plant them in the front yard in the fall. jim

  14. Love to have lemongrass, it would surely be useful for cooking and of course some carpet grass for the luxury of bare feet - but none of it grows in my container garden - its too shady for it to stay alive.

  15. Hi Nell,

    I like the idea of having ornamental grasses (besides bermuda) in the garden, and enjoy seeing it in others, but have not put any in mine. I'm not sure why...
    Your native grasses are beautiful.

  16. I once had a neighbor that would garden in the pouring rain in (short) running shorts and hiking boots. That's it. It was bad when their was heavy digging to do as he would bend at the back, not the legs. In went a hedge of tall grasses. Problem solved. Sort of. I love grasses and use them to extend our short summer season and provide garden interest into the winter.

    Christine in Alaska

  17. I use them as accent plants and for the movement the tall varieties give in the garden. It is almost time to burn the remnants of last year's grasses.

  18. Grass? Weed? I wondered where you were going with this post, NellJean. Remember the 1960's and the Summer of Love?

    I suggested to my son and dil that they uses grasses around the swimming pool fence, but they didn't listen to me. Imagaine that?

    I've become more interested in grasses the last couple of years, so this post was very interesting to me.


  19. I'm not a grass convert. Yet. I am thinking about putting something like that in a big pot. We do have a bamboo grove behind our house which was here when we moved in. It is a kind of grass, and we have to keep after it every year lest it grow up through the vegetable plot, as well as the parking area. I have admired some lovely ornamental grasses, but I still need some convincing!

    By the way, thank you for your complimentary comment on my Japanese maple post. I hope you find the perfect jap maple for your own garden. As of this morning,blotanical is still down! Have you heard anything? I am going to definitely start my own blogroll. It's hard finding folks this way!

  20. Hi Nell,
    I should probably be ashamed that I have no interesting grasses in my garden. I think because it is so small I tend to go towards the flowering plants. I have purchased some shrubs with berries though to put out this spring .But I love to see the textures of grasses in a fall and winter landscape though.Pampas grass always looks so pretty in the fall and in the snow. I love the looks of the pink pampas grasses also. The Vetiver adds some great textures.

  21. I used to write off grasses in favor of big flowered plants, but I've come to realize that grasses provide the perfect texture background to those flowers. Not sure if they'd work on your side of the world, but my go-to grasses are Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer grass), Festuca idahoensis (Blue Fescue), and Leymus condsatus (Canyon Prince Wild Rye). They also stabilize slopes really well and aren't bothered by deer. Hooray!

  22. Many of us are slow converts to grass in gardens. It does require much thought -- my friend Regenia tried and tried to get rid of pampas grass on each side of her driveway which had grown so large the car would hardly fit through. Finally she resorted to burning it, which of course encouraged it. It requires careful thought before planting, doesn't it?

    Donna, you can go here to see just how much we knew about grass in the early sixties, as told here by my friends Melba and Patsy:

    Grass and the Coed

  23. For five or more years I've planted Zebra grass in select area's of my yard and when they begin to spread or become to dense in one area.. I would dig some up and plant them in large pots.

    I love the smell of Lemon grass.. and can understand why our pets like to chew it!.......

    Unfortunately I'm allergic to it!

    Love all the photos..everything looks so lush and green.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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