Grasses | Structure, Movement, Form and Sound

Grasses can be planted together to form a spectacular textured border of different grass varieties or they can be mixed with complementary herbaceous perennials for a colourful mixed display of flower and foliage. The graceful leaves and delicate flowers shimmer and glow when backlit by morning or evening sun, so try to site your plants to capture this effect.

The majority of grasses need a sunny site to thrive, so choose the brightest spot in your garden for the best display. Most species also like free-draining conditions and will withstand periods of drought once established. Although most grasses prefer a sunny site Deschampsia will tolerate some shade and thrives in a range of soil types.

In large borders, you can weave together a selection of medium-sized grasses such as Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrotis) with upright foliage and feather-like flowers. Large grasses such as Miscanthus (Elephant Grass) are upright and drought tolerant – their flower plumes are borne in late summer. Panicum or Switch grass are prairie type grasses which bear clusters of tiny flowers that float above clumps of wide leaves. Some forms have blue-grey foliage such as Panicum Heavy Metal. Deschampsia Goldtau is a popular border cultivar, with dark green leaves and cloud-like sprays of tiny golden summer flowers. These medium and large grasses can be planted with contrasting perennials such as Eupatorium, Asters and Verbena bonariensis to good effect.


Grasses and Perennials in mixed border

In smaller gardens or at the front of large borders, try a mix of Calamagrotis brachytricha with its beautiful late summer feather-like plumes. Stipa tenuissima (Pony Tail Grass) is a popular choice with wispy leaves swaying in the breeze, or Stipa gigantea, with evergreen leaves and tall stems of golden, oat-like flowers. Helictotrichon is an evergreen blue oat grass which has a steely-blue colour and is a good foil for flowering plants, with contrasting shapes and colours such as Euphorbia (Spurge) and Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy). Its flowers appear from late spring to summer. These colours can be matched with rusty orange Achilleas, cream Astrantia major, yellow Rudbeckia Goldsturm and dark red Sedum Autumn Joy to give a long season of interest. The flowing form of Anemanthele lessoniana is a knee-high, clump-forming evergreen with arching stems of yellow, orange and red tints from Autumn to Spring. This will add a sense of movement as it spills over a border, path or patio. To also soften your display Pennisetum is a deciduous fountain or Foxtail grass with arching foliage and long soft flowers, most do not exceed 1 metre (3ft). Please come and see our selection of grasses.

Roger Eavis