Leaves Of Grass(es)*

september-20-2008-032-2Like most young gardeners, in the beginning it was all about flowers. Colors were thoughtfully blended to create a soothing but still cheerful palette. Wisdom that comes with the digging of gazillion shovelsful of soil, pulling the same number of weeds and gazing at the garden that number of hours has taught the important lesson that form and movement are just as crucial to pleasing the eye as the colorful blooms. Evergreen trees and shrubs offer the skeleton, but grasses are the glue, the muscles that hold the framework together.november-10-2008-025-2The favorites growing here will be featured, among them the tall Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’.This fine grass was named the Perennial Plant Association’s plant of the year in 2001. I have been a loyal follower of these selections and have been keen to buy them. Most are very garden worthy, a few have been disappointing but Karl has been a jewel. Click here for more fun facts about this grass.may-20-2008-9-2In front of Karl grows an assortment of penstemons, nepeta, dianthus and another smaller grass, blue fescue, Festuca glauca. This may or may not be the cultivar F. ‘Elijah Blue’. More info can be found by clicking here. This grass is quite an extraordinary color, stays small and only seeds itself slighty. The babies are welcome here, since young plants do not have the older dead blades that mature clumps acquire. Division every two or three years is necessary to keep them neater looking, but that just gives you more plants to spread about. I use them as filler to keep weeds down until something better comes to mind.006-2Similar in color and shape but slightly larger and less vigorous is Helictotrichon sempervirens, blue oat grass, seen here with the smaller fescue. This grass is famous for color and drought tolerance. It is growing in the bed near the garage that used to be a gravel driveway and seems to perform best in that sunny well drained spot. Click here to read more about the growing conditions for it. One of the fun things about the blue oat grass is the winter clean up technique. Comb through the blades with your fingers to dislodge the dead foliage, like detangling hair. The straw comes right out and there is no cutting involved. Some sites do recommend the knife but the combing is fun and the plant looks good immediately instead of having to grow back. Karl and the blue fescue are in that same gravel bed, among other spots in the garden.november-8-2008-020-2Give black seeded fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ plenty of room, for it has visions of world domination. The middle bed along the street at the front on our property was planted with two of these grasses, one on each side of the clump of roses in the middle. There are three rows of lirope at the curb that have been infiltrated with Moudry, which is fine and even adds more interest there. If any seedlings are found outside of this island bed they are removed. For the facts about this spreader click here.january-27-2009-001-21Carex, while not a true grass but a sedge, will be included here. Our favorite is C. flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’. Click here for the growing details. This plant does not draw much attention during the warmer months with its nearly dead coloration. Sometimes people even think it is dead with the lack of green, but that is what is endearing about it. In winter the evergreen evertan swirling mounds shine and make good companions for heucheras as seen in this post of Pams’ at Digging. At one time I had a vision of the quadrants of the knot garden filled with this sedge. The conditions proved to be too sunny and too dry for this shade and moisture lover. The large clumps that were growing in concrete pots had been divided to nearly single blades in a fit of enthusiastic cheapo gardening for the quads. Nearly every plant was lost and now there are only a few spots, including the trough planter, where the toffee is twisting. It can be divided in winter here, and we hope to build up a good population once again, in the right growing conditions.september-2-2008-042-2Japanese blood grass, Imperator cylindrica ‘Rubra’ is used many places around and about with greater success. This is a runner and is even on invasive lists in some parts of the world, but it is not spreading fast enough for that classification here. In fact a little more aggressiveness would be welcome for it looks best planted en masse and where backlighting makes the red blades glow like flames. It can be seen in the trough photo showing its winter look. I missed this patch when cutting the rest to the ground for a neater spring show. We have it planted along the azalea border front with Sedum ‘Matrona’ and along the wall behind the main house where the sun can illuminate it nicely. Click here to read more about it. january-23-2009-011-2This golden Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ is the lawn substitute for the front garden in winter. In summer it is still there, but is engulfed with the wild violets. It was first purchased as a water plant for the pond. It outgrew the plastic pot so quickly that it was planted along the outer edge of the pond liner and offered bright gold foliage all year with absolutely no care needed. While staying in a neat clump it grew massive and the thought for using it in the front under the shrubs has been one of our greater successes. Even though it will grow in standing water, it will also grow on the dry slope, in sun or shade. Did I mention it is evergreen evergold? For plant facts about it click here.october-27-2008-049-2Black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ provides contrast to the Acorus and the greens of the garden groundcovers. The green in the photo above is Scilla peruviana. This black mondo will tolerate full sun but thrives in partial shade and will reward you with pink flowers and black berries. It runs and seeds, but is not a thug. To really show up in the garden it does need some contrast nearby. White alyssum is a divine companion for it. Again, click here to find out more about its needs and growing habits.june-5-2008-034-2This brings us to the hardest working grass in the fairegarden, Stipa tenuissima, shown here intermingling with the eryngiums.october-28-2008-008-2This delicate but tough grass holds the corner of the daylily hill in place, moving with the slightest breeze under the Crimson Queen japanese maple.october-28-2008-011-2It can be divided easily and has been used to anchor the redesigned heather bed. For the lowdown on this best of the best grass, click here. Also known as Mexican feather grass, this is one case where the botanical name, Stipa, is easily pronouced and this is how we address it as we peruse the many places it grows here. october-2-2008-044-2For fans of the pink muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris, we will close with a gratuitous shot of this beauty in fall. While in bloom, there is no grass that can come close to its beauty, so much so that it got its very own post.
Rather than copy and paste all the growing information for each of these grasses, it seemed a better use of blogging space to just give the links for those interested in knowing more. Sites that provide the growing conditions and are not trying to sell you the plants were chosen if possible. But if you are interested in a really good book on the subject of grasses in the garden, Click here to find author and fellow blogger and all around nice person, Nancy J. Ondra’s book “Grasses: Versatile Partners For Uncommon Garden Design” with photos by the superb photographer and blogger Saxon Holt. *And about the title of this post, my apologies to Walt Whitman.

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62 Responses to Leaves Of Grass(es)*

  1. LindaLunda says:

    Amazing!!!! Love yourg rasses…. And then you have to know that I am NOTT a fan of grasses….

    Hi Linda, thanks so much. And thanks for choosing me to play the photo game. I will join in if time allows. πŸ™‚ Grasses add so much to a gardens personality, do give them a try!

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think your collection of grasses are great Frances. I don’t seem to have luck with many grasses. I do have luck with the black grass which I love. I have tried the Elijah Blue several times. I just love the look of it but it is a no grow here. The same with the Japanese Blood Grass. Maybe our winters are just too bad for them. Something isn’t right.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I don’t understand your lack of grass luck. Some of these may not work in your zone, but surely something is appropriate for your conditions. Maybe something native, like the prairie grasses. You have more sun now with that big tree that came down last year. Drainage may be an issue, try the acorus and good luck. The movement and form add so much, it is worth finding at least one that will work for you. Karl Foerster will grow in zones 4-9. πŸ™‚

  3. gittan says:

    Oh, they are gourdious! I do love grass and have a few myself but they are rather new and still small. I have to come back tonight and reed again. Now I’m of to work. If you look into my blog today… I’didn’t have time to translate for you (sorry) Have a nice day (I can see the sun today – hurray)

    Hi Gittan, thanks. Do come back after work, maybe one of these grasses would work in your garden if you don’t already have some. And don’t worry about the translation, the google translator is fine, just kind of silly. πŸ™‚ And hooray for the sun, we are hoping to see some today too, it has been a while since we have seen his happy face.

  4. Phillip (UK) says:

    Great post but I love grasses and you have posted such a good selection.

    Hi Phillip, thanks. I am so glad you love grasses too. They add so much to any garden and should be used more, IMHO.

  5. Darla says:

    Now grasses are plants that I really haven’t considered too much, unless you consider Liriope Grass. Yours gives me something to think about though. You put a lot of time into your informative posts, thanks!

    Hi Darla, thanks for that. I love that you will think about grasses. You should be able to grow the stipa in your area. And liriope is certainly a grass, just not one of my favorites, although it is planted extensively here. I used it when the garden was new to fill in and keep the weeds down. Now it has spread and seeded so I can’t even dig it up and get it all. It keeps coming back. Even round up doesn’t stop it, or the violets. I would much rather have the stipa in its place, but the task of replacing it all is just too daunting, even for me! πŸ™‚

  6. Janet says:

    Frances, I love your collection of grasses. I don’t have the Japanese Bloodgrass nor the Karl Foester. I keep looking at the Ophiopogon, though my shade is limited. You need to try the Carex ‘Sparkler’. I did some posting of the grasses I have back here- http://thequeenofseaford.blogspot.com/2008/12/plume-day-deux.html

    Hi Janet, thanks so much. Sparkler sounds like a good one. I do have a few other grasses and sedges, Ice Dance among them. So far, the ones featured have been the best all around additions to the garden here. I will check out your post too, thanks for the link. The black mondo will grow in sun just fine, but seems happier with partial shade, a couple of hours in the afternoon is enough.

  7. Jan says:

    I agree with your comment about new gardeners starting out with just flowers. I know that’s what I did. Ornamental grasses started being popular about five years ago, and I think they add another dimension to a garden. I am trying to add more grasses to my garden. I want a big swathe of muhly grass like you have.

    Always Growing

    Hi Jan, thanks for visiting. My own gardening offspring started with the flowers only too. The grasses have so much to offer and we only started using them extensively in the last five years. Following the trend I guess. They seem to be more readily available now, especially the carex family. I hope you can get the drift of muhly going, it is a thrill to see it in the fall.

  8. I love grasses. Simply love them. Really.

    Hi Susan, thanks for visiting. The grasses are quite deserving of our love, for they add so much to the garden and ask so little in return.

  9. Great tutorial Frances, no gardener has any excuse now not to grow grasses in their garden, unless they live on the North or South Pole. πŸ˜‰

    Hi YE, thanks. I must say that your first garden book story was the most delightful post I have read in ages. As for the grasses, I do hope to have opened some minds to the possibility of adding some to the flowers. πŸ™‚

  10. Rose says:

    I’ve always planted to plant some grasses in my garden, Frances, but I never was sure which variety would be best. Thanks for all this great info and the link to Nan Ondra’s book. This would be a good time to do a little reading about grasses. Oh, and I think Whitman would have enjoyed walking through your garden:)

    Hi Rose, thanks for that. I was a little apprehensive about the title, and changed it several times due to the corniness factor. I respect your opinion as a master, or is that mistress or is that madam or letters that it is not offensive? Nan’s book on grasses, like all of her books, is full of great photos that show the grasses used to beautiful effect and terrific narrative. Every garden should have some ornamental grasses, I believe.

  11. Gail says:

    Hi Frances, Love this post! Your photos of the garden are lovely and the information about how you intermingle the grasses with flowers and shrubs is very inspiring to me as I contemplate what I will be adding to the GOBN. I think the stipa might be a great addition, it won’t block the view of Rusty and the gang! So many excellent ideas and a look at how delightful your garden is..all in one post! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. I had already started thinking about this post when you began your redesign project in the back but it has taken this long to get it together. I do hope you can find some appropriate grasses for your GOBN, they add so much texture and movement. I can’t wait to lay my eyes on it in person, whenever that may be. Hope we both have a day out in the garden today!

  12. Marnie says:

    You have a beautiful selection. Unhappily, we folks in the north can’t grow most of them.

    In the last 10 years or so they have hybridized so many new grasses. Even people like me that didn’t care for them in the garden can find a lot to like about the new varieties.

    Hi Marnie, I am so sorry most of the grasses listed will not grow for you. However, Karl Foerster is stated to grow in zones 4-9. Do check out Nan’s book, for she gardens in a colder Pennsylvania climate and there might be some that would work found in there. I had to list what works well here. I realize now that the zones for many of these are limited as to where they will grow by hardiness. My zone 7 Tennessee garden is fortunate in the diversity of what can survive here, but there are grasses for every climate I believe and research might reveal the perfect one for your garden. Again, sorry for not including more cold hardy ones.

  13. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, thank you for a wonderful post. I don’t grow many grasses, I haven’t learnt to love them yet! I think part of the problem is not growing them ‘on mass’. I do have Ophiopogon planiscapus β€˜Nigrescens’ but hadn’t thought of alyssum with it, I may try this combination this year. I did get a plant of Festuca glauca about 20 plus years ago but it died on me and I have never replaced it – perhaps this is the year to try it again. I have Japanese blood grass but it is either a poor specialism or in the wrong place because it never looks like yours. Pink muhly – I could cry, I can’t find it here in the UK but perhaps one day. I have bought seeds of Pennisetum glaucum Purple Majesty this year.

    Thanks for a really lovely post, best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, thank you for stopping by. Maybe you can learn to love more grasses if you have some success with growing a few. Do give them a try. Even as annuals they will perk up any garden. Purple Majesty will be a pleasing addition, I had it in a pot one year, seed grown and it was magnificent. Never got it going again though it is worth trying once more. Karl Foerster is state to grow in zones 4-9.

  14. Dave says:

    It would be fun to plant some of the black mondo next to silver mound artemisia. I may try that. Your Carl Foerster looks great, I hope ours matures as well. They are shooting up green growth so I’m optimistic. The penstemons look great too!

    Hi Dave, thanks. Those penstemons are stellar here, but they are all mixed up and I don’t know one from the other, there has been some partying going on! The black mondo and silver mound sounds perfect, such a contrast of form along with color too. Karl should do well for you. I have divided mine so many times, you may be the king of cuttings, but I am the queen of dividing! HA

  15. Randy says:

    I can hardly wait to enjoy my new grasses this summer!

    Hi Randy, I do hope your new grasses are happy and healthy in your garden! πŸ™‚

  16. tina says:

    Just absolutely beautiful Frances. The grasses are so fun in the garden! I have high hopes for the blue fescue you gave me last spring. I did plant it out and hope it looks as good as yours one day.

    Hi Tina, thanks so much. I do hope the blue fescue makes you smile. That color looks so good with the warm summer colors of zinnias and such, a cooling touch. Not that we need that so much now! πŸ™‚

  17. mothernaturesgarden says:

    I love the way you have used such a variety of grasses in your botanical paradise. Some I have and some I will try because of your wonderfully informative and illustrated post.

    Hi Donna, thanks so much. It makes me the happiest to think you will try some of these grasses. They should do well in your area, I think. And thanks for the kind words about my garden, it is my pride and joy! πŸ™‚ Although it still needs lots of tweaking. The hawk photos were amazing!

  18. patsi says:

    Love your grasses!
    Great balance for the garden…always get a kick out of the pink grass.
    Penstemons are one of my favorites, nepeta will be new for me this year.
    You have a HUGH fun filled garden !

    Hi Patsi, I loved your *tail* post! HA Thanks, the garden here is not really big, but it is spread out over three city lots and the hill makes it seem larger too. Nepetas of all kinds are great garden workhorses, I should add more. Glad you liked the grasses too, they are good neighbors for penstemons.

  19. Frances,
    I’m so in love with the look of your garden grasses! You’ve got that Piet Oudolf impression that I adore.

    I’ve really wanted to add the Bloodgrass. I passed it up a few times out of concern, but it is one of the most dramatic color accents. I think perhaps just being mindful of its habit may do well enough to keep it under control.


    Hi Cameron, thanks so much. Words of high praise from one with such a fantastic garden of their own. I am working to get more Piet-like. It is a totally different style than what I began with, and grasses are key to that look. About the bloodgrass, it is so not invasive here, maybe it’s the drought or the cold winters, but we would love to see it spread much much more. It plays well with others and has not even come close to crowding anything else out here. No controlling necessary.

  20. Daphne Gould says:

    I don’t grow any grasses right now (except the dreaded lawn). When you posted on the muhly grass before I was sad because it isn’t hardy in my area. I keep thinking about it though. Maybe it would grow along my foundation. The problem with that is that it would never get any water because I have a huge overhand and the wind goes in the other direction. Sigh. The stipa does look nice though. It waves add a very romantic feel to the garden.

    Hi Daphne, I do hope you can figure out a way to grow some of these, if not the muhly, or grow them as annuals. Karl should be hardy for you and another name for it is feather reed grass, so it has that romantic swaying feel too, but is taller. Give it a try! πŸ™‚

  21. skeeter says:

    My kind of grass, that is the type you dont have to mow! I really like the spider web with long legged friend within. I have never seen the Black Mondo grass before and am thinking it may need to call a spot in my GA garden home. And of course you saved the best for last. Ah, the beautiful Muhly grass, my all time favorite grass of your garden….

    Hi Skeeter, I’m with you on that! No mowing is perfect. All of these grasses are so carefree and add so much to the overall appearance of the garden. With your shade the black mondo would be a good addition. It is small and does not make the impact like the others do, but is great for contrast. Try it with citronelle heuchera! I know you can grow the muhly too!

  22. Brenda Kula says:

    Every time I see photos of your garden, it’s like seeing it for the first time! So many plants and grasses. Such beauty you have cultivated in your spaces. I too love the Mondo grass. And happen to also have that. I need to try some of your grasses on the other side of my house, where I haven’t gotten to yet to do any landscaping!

    Hi Brenda, why what a nice thing to say, thanks! I think I remember seeing the black mondo at your place. Do try some or all of these at your side garden to be. They grow quickly and are so carefree and add so much to the design. Plant a bunch of them! πŸ™‚

  23. Jean says:

    I’m a huge fan of grasses although I’ve had a harder time finding the right place for them in my “new” garden. I would love to grow all of them but most especially ‘Karl Foerster’. I’ve heard they can take some shade. Has that been your experience? Mexican feather grass is also one of my faves and has graciously self seeded for me recently. However, some folks may experience more re-seeding of this grass than they’d like so word of warning!
    Great photos as usual Frances.

    Hi Jean, thanks. Sometimes it is hard to find the best spot, and really most look better en masse than a single specimen too, and that takes time for them to get large enough to divide. Karl lived many places before settling in the gravel driveway. HA I do think he can take some shade, and know the stipa can. It does quite a bit of reseeding if I don’t cut the flower heads off, usually late June.

  24. I hadn’t realized that you had such an assortment of grasses. I guess most of them are the supporting players in most of your garden stories. I’ve decided that I need a tall, sturdy grass that won’t collapse under the weight of snow. Various candidates have presented themselves, but I think I need to take a look at Nan Ondra’s book before I make the final decision. Besides, if it’s anything like “Fallscaping” or “Foliage”, it’ll be a welcome respite from winter.

    Hi MMD, you are right, other than the muhly grass, the others are important character actors but not the stars that the flowers are. But without them the garden would not be nearly as interesting. Grasses is very similar to the other books of Nan’s. Same great photos and text, same size so they can be kept neatly stacked together on the shelf. An important trait for some of us neatniks. I don’t know about the snow factor, but photos from Nan’s garden might help you choose one that can carry that weight.

  25. chuck b. says:

    Calamagrostis is my favorite genus of grasses.

    Hi Chuck, good to hear you can grow these also. I have been more than pleased with it in every location. It stays very neat and upright too, no flopping, important for smaller gardens. But no one likes a flopper. πŸ™‚

  26. Racquel says:

    They do add a wonderful texture to your garden Frances. I’ve always been a bit leary of grasses since so many of them are so aggressive but thanks for sharing some of the wonderful varieties from your garden. Thanks for the links too!

    Hi Racquel, thanks so much. The pennisetum is quite aggressive, but the others are much more mild mannered. The blood grass is not at all a thug here either, I wish it would spread more and faster. Hope you can find some that interest you, all gardens can benefit from some grasses, no matter the style or conditions.

  27. Phillip says:

    What beautiful photos. You have a great collection of grasses. I think they add so much interest to the garden in all seasons.

    Hi Phillip, thanks so much. The grasses catch the light, when there is sunshine! They do make a huge difference in the overall interest in the garden. Your daphne is divine! πŸ™‚

  28. Catherine says:

    These are great suggestions. I don’t really have grasses, mostly because I’m not sure how to use them. I really like Karl and think he would fit perfectly into my garden! The muhly is so pretty.

    Hi Catherine, thanks. Do give Karl a try, he is very well behaved and stays upright and straight all through fall and winter too. A group of them, close together is the way I like to use them. In bloom, the muhly is a knockout. The rest of the year it is a bit blah, but is still worth growing come September. πŸ™‚

  29. Melanthia says:

    These are absolutely gorgeous and put my poor post to shame! Thanks for sharing Frances.

    Hi Melanthia, thanks, but I thought your post was beautiful and charming. A different sort of take on the same subject. Your photos were fantastic!

  30. Tessa says:

    Oh, I just love the pink muhly and the black mondo grass! I’m giving Penstemon another try this year from seed…we’ll see what happens!

    Happy Gardening!

    Hi Tessa, thanks. Some of the penstemons have self sown here, Husker Red in particular. Other varieties are not readily for sale in nurseries here, but they do perform well in the dry garden. I tried seeds before with zero germination rate, but that was before the heat mats were used. Maybe another try, for I love all the pens.

  31. jodi says:

    Grasses are habit forming, aren’t they? I have a few grass-envies on account of not being able to grow pink muhly grass and other tender ones, but I love my miscanthus, carex, calamagrostis and other sturdy species.
    I’ve explained to people that grasses are kind of like wines; people start out with the sweet, sparkly wines and gradually (often) evolve to drier, more complex wines. So it is with plants, evolving from the florid showoffs to more complex and sometimes subtle plantings. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of the choices, of course.

    Hi Jodi, your comments are always so thoughtful and well written, a joy to receive, thanks so much for visiting. Glad to hear there are several grasses you can grow. The wine analogy is a good one. Refined tastes in wine and gardens, if that is the chosen path, as you say. There is no right or wrong, but The grasses offer so much and ask so little.

  32. Lythrum says:

    I have really developed an appreciation for grasses over the years too. To me it gives good interest in non-peak bllming times when the quieter plants have a chance of getting attention. Love the first shot with the spider!

    Hi Lythrum, thanks, only a couple of you commented on the spider. It took a while for me to understand the importance of the grasses too. Now I cannot imagine the garden without them.

  33. RobinL says:

    Such a lovely collection of grasses you have! I have Karl Forester Reed grass, but it has yet to win my heart. I think I need something else nearby to make it shine. And my black mondo grass is blending right into my dark brown mulch. I think I will try white alyssum nearby to highlight it. Thanks for the idea!

    Hi Robin, thanks. I do think Karl looks best standing with a bunch of his clones! HA I divided mine to make a cluster and suddenly fell in love with the presence of them. As with all the taller grasses, backlighting really shows them to best advantage. The alyssum or the yellow leaf heucheras are good mates, or dianthus.

  34. I’m glad you put all your grasses in one post. I’m interested in several of them for my new gardens. Your post are so much work and is much appreciated.

    Hi Anna, thanks for stopping by. I wanted to offer a variety of what grows well here for others to maybe find something they could use in their own gardens, no matter where they live. I do hope you were tempted by some, they offer so much interest for the year around look, not just during the blooming months. Really that is their strength, to carry the garden when no flowers are blooming.

  35. Wonderfully informative post Frances. I do enjoy your grasses and they do seem to tie a planting scheme together

    Hi Karen, thanks. I had hoped to change some minds about the grasses. It was surprising to me that many readers do not grow grasses at all, for they are so easy and offer so much.

  36. The first photo of this post is magnificent! I love the spider web. Just lovely.
    And this was a most helpful entry on grasses. I put my Japanese blood grass in a pot out of fear…I hope it survived the winter. It will be let out of jail!

    Hi Kathy, thanks so much. Where you live the blood grass will not be a problem at all, do free him! πŸ™‚

  37. Do most of these grasses need sunlight, Frances? Much of my backyard is shaded by large trees all summer. I do have wild violets which were ok at first, but drive me crazy now. I couldn’t get them out w/Roundup either…My whole backyard is filled with mulch because the dog ruined what grass we did have. I suppose I should write a post asking for help! I have a LOT of problem areas. If grasses would grow, I should probably try them, but not sure they’d get enough light. Your photos and garden, as always, are lovely.

    Hi Jan, thanks. I know the acorus and mondo can take shade, for they are in some of the shadiest spots I have. The acorus especially is good with the violets, can stand up to their aggressive ways and look beautiful in the winter when the violets are dormant. There is a grass that does well in shade, Deschampsia cespitosa, tufted hair grass. I am sure a post asking for help would get many good responses. The garden bloggers are a giving group. πŸ™‚

  38. Robin says:

    I have become a big fan of grass since moving to Indiana. I have several different kinds and so far they are well behaved and growing pretty well.

    You definitely have the knack for placement and impact!

    Hi Robin, thanks. I imagine Indiana to have quite a bit of prairie type gardens a la Piet Oudolf. Glad to hear yours are doing well. They add so much to any garden, I believe. Like everything else in my garden, they just keep getting moved around until the right place is found for them. Blogging has helped me with that since I am taking so many photos now too. So fun to study the garden in summer on a winter’s day! πŸ™‚

  39. nancybond says:

    Uncle Walt will forgive you, I’m sure. πŸ˜‰ I love the muhly grass, for sure, but I’m also really taken with that Japanese blood grass. Love the red!

    Frances, I don’t seem to be picking up your posts on Blotanical, at least not in my Faves. I’ll have to take a closer look and if not, I’ll see what Stuart thinks. I thought I wasn’t seeing as many of your posts as I should be!

    Hi Nancy, thanks for noticing that. πŸ™‚ The blood grass is a great performer here, even though it is short in stature. I try and post three times a week although that is subject to change at any time for various reasons. Hope you can figure it out about Blotanical. πŸ™‚

  40. nancybond says:

    I must be losin’ it. I found you just fine on my list! Duh.

    Oh good, I hate to be lost. πŸ™‚ And don’t feel bad, I have sent help messages to Stuart for some really dumb things. He is such a good sport about it too. I have made a rule not to write anything to anyone when I am tired, my brain just shuts down then. HA

  41. joey says:

    Love your posts on grasses, Frances, and though they don’t work well in my gardens, I’m thinking perhaps in our public Garden Club gardens. The joy of connecting is feeling ‘the heartbeat’ of the gardener, each unique. Not to mention, gardeners are soulful … we tend God’s earth!

    Hi joey, thanks so much. Grasses are a wonderful addition to large gardens, even though many people don’t notice them as much as the blooms. The structure and movement they add is without equal.

  42. Pam/Digging says:

    The Mexican feathergrass is a hard worker in my gardens too, Frances. It grows beautifully, is not invasive for me (though I hear it is farther west), and will even take some shade, though it prefers full sun. I love it.

    I also grow the Gulf muhly, but mine can’t compare to your glorious sweep.

    The one I really wish I could grow is the bloodgrass, but it’s simply too hot and dry for it here.

    Hi Pam, I remember seeing the stipa in your garden used to its best. It seeds about a little here if I don’t cut the spent flower heads off, but I welcome the free plants! Thanks about the muhly, en masse is the way with that one, but when not blooming it is quite ordinary. I remember trying the bloodgrass in my other TN garden, a zone colder but it did not winter over, same with rosemary. Zone 7 seems to be good for it, there have been no losses no matter the time planted, moved or divided. You do have so many wonderful grasses and I love their contrast with the agave type plants too.

  43. blossom says:

    wow … trully educational and entertaining at the same time. Beautiful pictures.

    H Blossom, thanks so much for the kind words.

  44. Monica says:

    I’ve always loves grasses, shrubs, and trees, but admittedly did not add them to my gardens until fairly well into being an obsessed gardener. I’m really really into shrubs now and would have a lot more if I were independently wealthy. BTW, bananas!, what is that lovely spider in the first photo?

    Hi Monica, HA, me too. It has even been hard getting my offspring to see the wisdom of the grasses as well. I try to tell them that is a big reason that my gardens seem to interesting in all seasons. As for shrubs, I know what you mean, and the hard part for that is that propagation is not nearly as easy as the grasses, which love to be divided and some can be started from seed too. As for the name of the spider, it is the same kind as my posts about mama spider on the zinnia, something like leopard legs, or leopard spider. I am not good on ID of the spiders. πŸ™‚

  45. Hello Frances~
    I think I have fallen in love with the Japanese blood grass, Imperator cylindrica β€˜Rubra’, it seems to ‘pop’ in your photo.

    I have a new interview up today that might interest you πŸ™‚ a little hint…fairy shoes.


    Hi Karrita, oh hooray for your interviewee! And did you know I made a purchase from that artist? πŸ™‚ The blood grass is used extensively here, for its size and color make any neighbor look that much better too. The sun is the artist backlighted all the grasses and that one in particular.

  46. What beautiful photos, Frances – you have fired inspiration into me on a cold, dark day.

    Hi Happy, thanks so much, for that makes me so happy to have been inspiration. πŸ™‚

  47. VW says:

    Lovely pictures as always, Frances. I do love the form and movement that grasses add, but unfortunately I am allergic to grass pollen! It’s not so bad if our turf stays mowed and doesn’t flower too much, but of course ornamental grass won’t be mowed. Being wind-pollenated, most grasses are BAD, BAD for allergies – pennisetum gets a 10 rating (the worst on the OPALS allergy scale), blue fescue gets a 9, carex/sedge is also a 9. Sneeze!
    Acorus is only a 6, and the liriopes (black mondo included) are only a 3! Finally some good news. I love siberian iris (just a 4) for its grass-like foliage, though it doesn’t flow in the wind quite the same.
    So I’m not planting any ornamental grasses in my yard 😦 Good thing I can enjoy your pictures without the pollen πŸ™‚
    Regards, VW

    Hi VW, thanks. I am so sorry you suffer from grass allergies. My husband The Financier suffers from lawn grass allergies too so I mow the lawn. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by the rest though. The black mondo sounds like a good bet for you, and the iris too. There are many grass like forms, like the phormiums and even daylilies that could work for you too.

  48. Great post on grasses, Frances. I, too, love Toffee Twist which seems to like morning sun here. I’m having some trouble getting the Japanese Bloodgrass going. I’ll keep working on it. Here Mexican Feather Grass is one hard working beauty. I understand it’s a thug elsewhere, but not so far in TN & OK.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks so much. Glad you can grow the stipa and carex too. I have started seeds for S. gigantea, but never know what success there will be from that. I killed several blood grass plants in my NE TN garden where I used to live, but probably did not site it properly. I loved your sledding post! πŸ™‚

  49. Makes me want to get motivated to add more to my garden. I love them and love the movement they give the garden. Beautiful post.

    Hi Helen, thanks and welcome. I am so glad to have offered a reason to plant more grasses, they really makes the gardens here sing out loud! πŸ™‚

  50. Genevieve says:

    You’ve mentioned almost all my favorites, Frances! What gorgeous photos and inspiration on how to use them all. Lovely!

    Hi Genevieve, thanks. I do remember your post on when to cut the grasses, it is approaching the time for the final cuts here, if we get a nice day. Loved your kitty versus chicken! πŸ™‚

  51. cheryl says:

    There is something to be said for a garden of grasses, no mower ! Very informative Frances, thank you. I grew the Acornus in a pot amongst Coleous last summer and it thrived. Then planted it so we shall see how it withstands the Winter here. Keeping toes crossed πŸ™‚

    Hi Cheryl, thanks. I am with you on the mower, although we have a small patch of lawn and the liriope front gets mowed once a year, about now. I don’t know your zone, but the Acorus said zone 4-9, that’s a great range! Hope it survives. πŸ™‚

  52. TC says:

    Your posts are a joy to read. I don’t miss a word. And of course the photos are always stunning. I think more native grasses should be incorporated in each and every garden and/or landscape. You couldn’t ask for a more garden worthy, and easy to maintain, perennial.
    “The melted snow of Marchβ€”the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts; β€”For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what is this in it and from it?” (Excerpt from “Warble for Lilac-Time” from “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman)

    Hi TC, thanks, what a nice thing to say. πŸ™‚ I am glad you agree about every garden needing some grasses, it is something not everyone sees the wisdom in. And thanks for the Walt fix too!

  53. Lola says:

    Hi Frances, Great pix as usual. I love the grasses but have not had any till last Fall. I did purchase a couple & they are in pots. Fear of them spreading I guess is what held me back.
    My question is: have you ever heard of what they call Sage Grass? I believe it grows wild. We use to cut it & redo our hens nest with it. Could this be a relative of some of the grasses that are used in home gardens now? It has a clumping habit at the base & some of the shorter blades droop over but the main blades stand tall & are tan in color.

    Hi Lola, thanks. I googled sage grass and got several different answers, but think it is the grass called brom grass. I planted seeds of that last year after ordering them from Chiltern’s in England for some reason that now escapes me. It is not used as an ornamental but is grown more like hay, that would make sense for the nests. In my opinion, every grass has some value except crab grass!

  54. Jon says:

    Frances, being a lover of ornamental grasses, this post was particularly appealing to me. The shot of and then your special post on the pink muhly grass triple-wowed me. It is on “my gotta have” list.
    Thanks for all the wonderful things you share on your blog.
    Jon at Mississippi Garden

    Hi Jon, thanks, you are so sweet. You need some muhly, a nice patch of it that can be backlit. It would be fabulous with your swiss chard! Thanks for the idea! I needed a companion for mine that had a different leaf, ruby chard would be perfect. πŸ™‚

  55. Monica says:

    Hi Frances, commenting on your comment in my blog (in the house that Jack built…), weather-wise, it’s not too late to winter sow (it becomes too late only when early evening temps consistently hit at least 60, and I don’t think it’s that balmy even for you!). I’m guessing, instead, you meant “too late” in terms of all your seeds are already sown for the season! Good for you. It’s supposed to hit 37 here today which means I can winter sow a bunch more stuff that’s been “waiting in the wings” for warmer weather (one CAN do the sowing inside and then take the trays outside but I tend to be a bit sloppy and prefer to do the whole process outside, but my bare hands have to be able not to freeze!).

    Hi Monica,thanks for answering that question. I have lots of extra seeds and might give it a try. Today is warmer here too and the ground is not frozen, a first in a long while, so weird for us too. I planted some California poppies in December outside in the ground and they germinated then got frozen really bad. Don’t know if that is a good idea without any snow cover. Maybe in flats with lids is better?

  56. Benjamin says:

    May we add prairie dropseed? Or, let’s wait until this spring when I see what’s become of them, and how mayn more I’ll add. They are my version of your mexican grass, since I’m zone 5, er 4, er 5….

    Hi Benjamin, first off, many congrats on finishing your book! I am super proud of the hard work and determination you put forth. I had to look up the Sporobolus, not knowing much about it, and it sounds like a fine and appropriate addition to your young garden. As with all the grasses, en masse is the way to go. I love how Piet Oudolf designs prairie inspired gardens with grasses such as yours and other tall perennials. A good role model for a garden like yours.

  57. Sweet Bay says:

    Frances I love ornamental grasses too. Their texture and movement in the garden is so appealing.

    I really like the blue fescue with the penstemons, nepeta, and dianthus. My all-time favorite is Muhlengergia capillaris — it’s so beautiful in bloom!

    Hi Sweet Bay, thanks for visiting. I am glad you appreciate the grasses too. I am interested in your other muhly grass, it sounds great, and your monardas are some of the best I have ever seen!

  58. Hilde says:

    What a great post!
    Grasses are so underrated up here, they’re not easy to find.
    Many of the species you have mentioned will never get any nearer than to my desert island, but nevertheless I just can’t get enough;)

    Hi Hilde, thanks so much, that is very sweet of you. I know that many of the ones that do best in my garden are not as cold hardy as some of the readers need to be able to grow them. But there are grasses similar that would, could and should be planted in the frozen north! πŸ™‚

  59. Joy says:

    Hi Frances .. I am a bit of a ghost lately .. a little too busy and I fear I have fallen behind a great deal !
    I love this post : )
    I hope gardeners who have not thought of using grasses will change their minds and follow through with at least some of your suggestions (they are good basic back bones in the grass world !).
    My favorite of yours .. because we actually share quite a few, is the Pink Muhly .. I think there is a cultivar that says it can be a zone 5 but I doubt it. I would grow it as an annual if I could truly get that fantastic PINK ! .. and Stipa .. another “annual” for me .. but so pretty .. I would love it.
    Moudry I found also to be a thug .. I had volunteers I did not want , so that beats had to go. I do have a different cultivar to Karl F .. Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Avalanche’ .. it needs a little more time and space in my garden but it promises to be an eye catcher !
    I’m really pleased to see such a wonderful post on grasses encouraging more gardeners to dip their toe into these beautiful plants. I truly can’t imagine not having them in my garden : )

    Hi Joy, thanks. I thought of your bench warmers today as snow covered my statuary! It won’t last though. And I am thrilled to hear that you have an appreciation for the look of grasses in the garden. Large or small, evergreen or annual, they add so much drama and interest to any style of garden. Avalanche sounds great!

  60. Hi Frances

    Just found this post when googling Penstemon and Nepeta. Anyway, I love this piece, even if I’m months late!


  61. Pingback: The Six Degrees Of Favorite Plants-SL Blogathon « Fairegarden

  62. Higolisticell says:

    hi, we have actually appreciate your post, good work

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